Night Shift Nurses Have Poor Sleep Habits, Pose Patient Safety Risk

Nurses who work the night shift are more likely than their day shift peers to exhibit sleeping problems, and face a greater risk of making serious medical errors and jeopardizing the health and safety of patients.  The finding is the result of recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Alabama – Birmingham.

The study sample was comprised of 289 licensed nurses in a hospital setting, and researchers found that 56% met the criteria to be considered sleep deprived.  Sleep deprivation contributes to poor psychomotor performance, and that poor performance has, in turn, been associated with an increase in medical errors and an unsafe healthcare work environment.

According to scientists, nurses who work the night shift are particularly susceptible to sleep deprivation due to the irregularity of their sleep hours and frequent disruptions to their circadian cycles.  They caution that identifying those nurses who are sleep deprived is critical to maintain a safe patient care environment.

Experts recommend that adults get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night to acheive optimum health and work performance.

Previously on the DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

  • An FDA warning on "stay awake" drug, Provigil
  • A study demonstrating that insomnia is widespread among children
  • A study showing that overworked medical interns are prone to medical errors

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