Medical residents are routinely scheduled to work shifts that last 24 hours or more, yet a study out today suggests that these sleep-deprived doctors are at high risk of making medical mistakes that can harm or even kill patients.
“Working for more than 24 hours is hazardous,” says sleep researcher Charles Czeisler at the Harvard Medical School.
I know it’s obvious that without the proper amount of sleep people do not perform at their optimum capacity, but when you read published literature from experts it is hard to ignore.
Who is taking primary Donornet organ call at your facility? Is it the coordinators or the surgeons? Let’s face it many times there are organ offers that no one wants and that your staff just doesn’t need to be bothered with. Ask yourself, is it worth possibly jeopardizing the care of other patients? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to have experts in the organ transplant field that know what they are doing and what is a good enough transplant-able organ field your offers for you?
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Czeisler and his colleagues had 2,737 first-year medical residents complete a monthly survey that asked detailed questions about their work schedule, sleep and days off. During the year-long study, the residents also were asked to report any medical errors they’d made while on duty.
The researchers found that when residents reported working five marathon shifts in a single month, their risk of making a fatigue-related mistake that harmed a patient increased by 700%! And the risk of making an error that resulted in a patient’s death shot up by 300%. The report appears in the journal Public Library of Science (PloS) Medicine. The residents in this study reported making 156 fatigue-related errors that injured a patient and 31 mistakes that led to a death, Czeisler says.
As if the risk of impaired patient care isn’t enough, at least consider your own health.
“Lack of sleep contributes to other health problems that may seem unrelated to rest. Shift workers, particularly those people who work one shift for a few days or a week and then switch to another, tend to have problems with sleep. They have greater health care utilization,” Dr. Boero said. “They are at increased risk of heart attack, diabetes, stroke, depression, reduced sex drive, hypertension and obesity.”
Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.
Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.
“Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation — they’ve gotten used to it,” Phil Gehrman PhD, CBSM, assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says. “But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”
Before you consider letting those (surgeons and coordinators) who are most important to your patients, take organ call, please consider letting experts in transplant take it for you. It’s just not fair to those whose lives you are trying to save.