The risk of medical errors tend to rise during the late night shift in hospitals. Some studies have found babies born at night are 16% more likely to die than those born in the daytime, those who suffer cardiac arrest at night are more likely to die and the number of medication errors increases significantly at night.
One major reason for the increased danger is that at night, hospitals operate with less people and people who are less experienced. Fewer staff members from doctors to nurses to administrative personnel are on duty during late hours and typically those with more experience and seniority choose to work normal day shifts.
Another reason for increased medical errors may be the hierarchy within the hospital which discourages lower level doctors from disturbing attending physicians who are not at the hospital for a second opinion.
Fatigue is another contributor to night shift medical errors. Hospital staff work long-hours, typically 24-hour shifts and 80-hour work weeks for interns and residents. Researchers conducting a Harvard Medical School study found that those working a 24-hour shift had the equivalent performance level of someone who was legally drunk and were twice as likely to injure themselves.
Night Medical Errors — Protect Yourself
Below are general tips that you can use to help protect yourself from deadly mistakes that can happen during an overnight hospital visit. Some of these suggestions apply during any type of hospital visit, but can be especially important in preventing night shift hospital errors.
Prevent Medication Errors: Keep a list of all medications you have been prescribed and double-check it’s the appropriate medicine before it sis administered. Ask your nurse the name and dosage of the drug before it is given to you.
Know Your Nurse: Request the names of the nurses who work the night shift. If you need attention, it’s much more effective to know the name of a specific nurse. Also, if you notice a particular staff member who is outstanding, get to know that person.
Get Outside Help: Have a friend of family-member stay with you in the room so they can respond right away if something happens or you need something.
Understand the hospital hierarchy: If the intern or resident on duty is giving you a diagnosis that just doesn’t seem right, ask for a second opinion from the next person up on this list.
- Department Chair: Oversees the unit and handles high-risk cases
- Attending Physicians: Board-certified doctor who oversees residents and is ultimately responsible for a patient’s care.
House physicians are directly involved in a patient’s care. They include:
- Fellow: board-certified in one specialty but doing additional training in a subspecialty
- Resident: doctor undergoing three to seven years of training to be board-certified in a specialty
- Intern: first year MD in a residence program
Contact A Medical Malpractice | Hospital Error Attorney | Lawyer
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