Physician and clinician stress, fatigue

By Zack Budryk

Healthcare workers are only human, but unfortunately that can lead to adverse outcomes if they allow themselves to work to the point of exhaustion.

Fatigue was a contributing factor in more than 1,600 events reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PPSA), FierceHealthcare previously reported. Thirty-seven were adverse events, and four led to the death of a patient. Most commonly, the events involved medication errors or procedure- or test-related mistakes, which comprised 88.5 percent of fatigue-related events. Nurses who worked 12.5 hours or more were at the most significant risk for errors.

"Recent literature shows that one of the first efforts made to reduce events related to fatigue was targeted to limiting the hours worked," Theresa V. Arnold, manager, clinical analysis for the PPSA, said. "However, further study suggests a more comprehensive approach is needed, as simply reducing hours does not address fatigue that is caused by disruption in sleep and extended work hours."

Stress and burnout drive more and more physicians to sell their practices or retire early, and their dissatisfaction can affect patient outcomes, according to FiercePracticeManagement. The problem is especially pronounced among primary care physicians, whose workloads often leave them with as little as 11 minutes to actually spend with individual patients. A 2013 survey found large numbers of nurses reporting understaffing and high levels of stress and fatigue, around the same time research found understaffing in neonatal intensive care units increases the risk of infection, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Physician and clinician stress, fatigue