Too Many Distractions Can Lead to Avoidable Medical Errors

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2016 | Hospital Negligence, Medication Errors, Surgical Errors

Working with patients in a health care setting is among the most important jobs one can have, and it carries some of the biggest responsibilities. Whether the health care worker is a physician, a nurse, or even a pharmacist they are required to pay very close attention to detail. These details are important for seeing that patients are fully evaluated during the diagnostic stage, when medication is dispensed or administered, as well as when treatments are being pursued. Even when these professionals are working under the best conditions staying focused can be a challenge. However, it is not unusual for work conditions to be compromised, and in too many cases it is their patients that pay the price.

Overworked and Understaffed

Nearly everyone who has been to see a doctor even for a routine appointment has probably noticed that it is nurses and medical technicians that do much of the work, administering shots, giving medication, drawing blood, or reviewing medical history. Whether they are in a clinic, hospital, or medical institution, such as a nursing home, those in the medical field are often scheduled long hours and work with minimal staffing. Some nurses have been known to work as many as 36 hours in a row without adequate support. One nurse’s survey from 2011 found that over a third of hospital nurses and nearly half of nursing home nurses who were responsible for direct care to patients admitted that they had failed to notice important changes in their patient’s conditions due to being overworked themselves.

The Problem of Distractions

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) have been looking into patient safety standards and the right to be free of accidental injury and various adverse effects that are avoidable with quality care.

They found that distractions played a strong role in the breakdown of patient safety one study noted that in observing just over 400 minutes of clinical activity, there were 75 distracting events. Care of a patient was interrupted 32 times, and five of the cares required were never completed. In four cases, the clinician did not even remember what they had been doing. Not only can distractions mean that medications get administered incorrectly, but it can also lead to poor communication, lack of patient safety provisions, or missed hygiene procedures.

Although the study involved a correctional facility environment, distractions due to poor staffing and extended work hours plague every area of health care, and patients pay with their health. In many instances receiving the wrong care can result in further health problems, discomfort, and expense.

If you have had lapses in the medical care you have sought because your doctors, nurses, or other health care professionals were not properly rested and focused on you as a patient, it is possible that you may be entitled to compensation that would cover any unnecessary pain and expenses you experienced. A good medical malpractice attorney can review your medical care history and help you determine whether pursuing a case is right in your situation.


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