Drowsy Doctoring

By Richard Console on February 21, 2012 - Comments off

On a Saturday night a couple weeks ago I was taken to the hospital because I was experiencing extreme pain on the right side of my lower back. It was just past dinner time when I arrived, but of course I would be there well into the night. It turned out that the pain I was experiencing was due to a kidney stone, but once I was settled in I got to thinking about the doctors in the E.R.

Although I was at the hospital for several hours I did not get to see a doctor, I did see a nurse practitioner. I faintly remember her talking about a radiologist that went over my CT scans, but for all I know this doctor was some mystical being that parents tell stories about to their children like the Easter Bunny. My nurse practitioner had obviously been on shift for some time. Each time she came into my curtained area she sat at the edge of my bed, if only to just catch her breath for a moment.

Despite being slightly out of it due to the medication they gave me, I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. They were brushed with a lining of dark purple underneath, not from makeup but from sleepiness. She spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper. It was not that late—the E.R. was still bustling with noise so her timid voice could not have been out of fear of waking another patient.

These doctors and nurses work very long hours. At best they are probably looking at a 12-hour shift, but it is not unheard of for them to work upwards of 36-hours (especially in bigger hospitals and for first year residents). Why are there no regulations for how long they are allowed to be on shift?

If you were traveling on a bus or an airplane you would want to be sure that the driver or pilot was well-rested so that you can get to your destination safely. There is constantly talk about the dangers of driving drowsy, especially with regards to truck drivers, yet no one seems to worry about drowsy doctors.

WebMD published this article about the effects of sleepiness. Now I am not talking effects of a serious sleeping disorder, these are the effects a lack of sleep will have on your body even when you don’t have a serious condition.

First they spoke about how a lack of sleep does result in accidents. They cited some major disasters such as the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, but also car accidents. Like I said earlier the statistics support that driving while tired is a huge risk, but these risks also apply to working while tired. They explained that drowsiness can affect your ability to react as much as being drunk would. This is no different for performing other tasks while tired, it is still a hazard.

Lack of sleep also greatly impairs your cognitive abilities including your ability to concentrate, your alertness, ability to pay attention, your reasoning, and your problem solving abilities—all things a medical professional would need to properly perform their job. The article goes on to explain more effects of continual lack of sleep, check it out.

In the end this ‘drowsy doctoring’ is a serious problem. If doctors and other medical experts are not at the peak of their cognitive ability mistakes can be made and lives can be put in jeopardy. If you or someone you love has been injured due to medical error, contact Console & Hollawell’s medical malpractice attorneys in NJ. Call us today at (866) 778-5500 to set up your free, confidential consultation.

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