Sleepy Doctors Increase Harm to Patient by 700%, and Death Up by 300%

It doesn’t take a genius to know that without the proper amount of sleep, job performance drastically decreases. Sleep deprived workers in any profession increases the risk of error, and injury. When sleep deprivation occurs in the practice of medicine however, lives can be lost. So why is it that in a majority of hospitals around the country, studies have found that resident doctors are simply not getting enough sleep to provide proper care to their patients?

According to recent study by the Institute of Medicine, doctors in training should work no longer than 16 hours in a row without a five-hour nap to reduce risk to patients. The study was performed after increasing alarm amongst researchers who observed a majority of hospitals allowing 30-hour shifts without a required amount of sleep. To make things worse, Resident doctors, who are under paid and overburdened with student loans, usually end up having to supplement their income by moonlighting at other hospitals.

When the individual in charge of your well-being has not slept for 30 hours, they become a danger to themselves, and that danger passes on to you. According to a study by the Public Library of Public Medicine, it has been found that, “…sleep-deprived doctors are at high risk of making mistakes that injure or kill patients. When residents reported working five marathon shifts in a single month [30 straight hours or more], their risk of making a fatigue-related mistake that harmed a patient increased by 700%, and the risk of an error that resulted in a patient’s death shot up 300%.”

Figures of this size are unacceptable. The recent study demanding 5 hours of sleep per 16 hours of work is indeed a step in the right direction, however it is not enough to solve an epidemic problem in our health care system. Simply put, at current rates, residents are not getting enough sleep to properly care for patients. Although all residents have only the highest of intentions, they can easily make mistakes when hospitals force them into these marathon shifts.

If you or a loved one is currently in the care of a hospital, and you suspect they have been have not received proper care due to a sleep-deprived staff, please inform the hospital immediately. Hopefully mistakes and accidents can be avoided by bringing it to the hospital’s attention. If you suspect wrongful death or injury due to a sleep deprived hospital staff however, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney. You may be entitled to compensation.

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