Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Nurse fatigue leads to more medical mistakes

An interesting study was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania suggesting that, because of nursing burnout, a large number of urinary tract infections and surgical site infections can result due to emotional exhaustion on the part of nurses. The researchers found that such medical mistakes leading to surgical infections by nurses tend to increase due to patient load and patient assignments.

These types of infections often turn out to be expensive for both the hospital and the patients. Urinary tract infections can cost a patient from $749 to $832. Surgical infections, on the other hand, can cost a patient an additional $11,087 to $29,433 per person.

The study concluded that improvements in working conditions and reducing burnout for such nurses could be implemented at much less cost than would the cost of such surgical infections. "By reducing nurse burnout, we can improve the well-being of nurses while improving the quality of patient care."

It was estimated in the study that Pennsylvania hospitals, alone, could reduce costs due to urinary tract and surgical site infections by $41 million by taking steps in reducing nursing burnout. This would add up to the elimination of 4,160 infections.

Though the study cannot be used to demonstrate how medical errors occurred in every circumstance, it does show a pattern in the manner in which medical mistakes generally occur. When hospitals place cost savings as a higher priority than patient safety, medical malpractice often occurs. It is the job of medical malpractice attorneys to hold such medical providers accountable for not making patient safety a higher priority.

Source: EndoNurse, "Study: Nursing Burnout Linked to Hospital Infections," July 2012

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