November 7, 2018
Indiana’s healthcare network of hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers cover Hoosiers with the treatment they need when they need it most. The rising demand both in our state and across the country for healthcare professionals and their services has led to a boom in this industry as well as a surge in the need for qualified doctors to serve patients well.
However, this demand often requires doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff members to work long hours, see many different patients, and juggle multiple tasks at a time. This leads doctors to make shortcuts or fail to thoroughly discuss options with patients that could end up harming them in one way or another.
When these hasty, negligent decisions lead to serious injury, doctors could be liable for medical malpractice.
How Fatigue Affects Medical Professionals
Doctors and surgeons aren’t the only professions that work long and sleepless shifts. Researchers know a lot about the human body’s reaction to sleeplessness because of long-haul truckers and pilots as well as physicians in residency.
In general, studies have found that doctors shouldn’t work between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m. due to the body’s natural desire to sleep and the brain’s decreased ability to function. Overall effects of sleep deprivation include decreased efficiency, depersonalization, short-term memory deficits, and, crucially, mood.
Doctors who don’t get enough sleep, whether during a single marathon shift, or during a week of constant short nights, lose their ability of recall, which can affect the information a doctor may pass on to his or her coworkers about a patient. Plus, their all-important bedside manner has a tendency to fail with each passing hour.
A slip-up in paperwork, prescription handling, or anesthetic administration due to fatigue and overworking can lead to patient harm and possibly even medical malpractice. Call an attorney to discuss your situation for the most accurate assessment of your case.
Establishing Guidelines for Healthcare Workers
Sleep research has found that taking regular, 40-minute naps during a long shift can help reduce the likelihood of “micro-naps,” head-nods, and other symptoms of sleep deprivation. Even sleeping 2-3 hours is better than staying up all night, but these naps result in sleep inertia (the state of impaired cognitive function after waking) after a person has been awake for 24 hours.
In a previous New York court ruling, the state banned physicians from working more than 24 hours without 8 hours of sleep, and also prohibited doctors from working more than 80 hours in a given week.
What to Do if Your Doctor Makes a Medical Error
It may be hard to identify whether your attending doctor has gotten enough sleep or has had a long week of work, but the consequences of their fatigue can be obvious. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or worsened condition due to a medical professional’s error, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim to receive financial compensation.
When the Doctor Is Liable
Doctors may be liable for their own schedule if they knowingly take double shifts or ignore directives from their superiors to rest or go home. These decisions may not always lead to negligent decision-making, but they can certainly increase the likelihood the physician may make a mistake. Upon investigation, the hospital should determine whether the doctor’s choices were to blame for a given error and take appropriate action from there.
When the Hospital or Administrators Are Liable
When the doctors aren’t responsible for their own schedule, or when first-year physicians are pushed to comply with harsh scheduling demands, the hospital or administrators may be responsible for their fatigue-induced errors.
The laws governing hospital staffs and their hours are complicated, and each case is so different it can be hard to guess whether a medical malpractice claim will be valid under these circumstances, but a qualified malpractice attorney can help sort through the intricate laws surrounding overworked medical professionals.
Work with an Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney
The healthcare system is a highly complex structure, even when just considering Indiana’s system of hospitals and professionals. If you’ve been hurt at the hands of those who should be healing, you shouldn’t have to face this system alone.
Hensley Legal Group’s medical malpractice attorneys are here to help injured Indiana residents seek the compensation they need for their illnesses and injuries. If you’ve suffered under a doctor’s negligence, call us or contact us online today. Get started with a free conversation about your case; there’s no obligation, and we won’t be paid until you are.