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How Nurses’ Mental Health can Impact Patient Safety

When you are being treated at the hospital, it is not uncommon for you to interact more with the nurses than with the doctors.   And because of that, the nurse’s role plays a critical part in your treatment.  Many patients are not aware, however, that a nurse’s emotional and mental well-being can have a significant impact on the safety of the patients under his or her care.

There is enough research indicating that hospitals need to invest more in the mental well-being of their nursing staff. Earlier studies have indicated that depression is a fairly common problem among registered nurses. A study published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that far too many nurses report below-average emotional and mental health.

Out of the 1,790 nurses who were included in the study, more than half reported struggling with problems like depression and reported poor mental well being. The lack of well-being also seemed to be directly linked to the risk of medical errors.  In fact, the study found a 26 to 71 percent higher likelihood of the person committing a medical error as a result of their compromised mental condition.

Some of the most common nursing mistakes include medication errors. These kinds of errors can include administering the wrong medication to the patient, administering the wrong dose of the medication and using the wrong route of administration. These are common medical errors, and they are often traced to the nurse in charge of the patient’s care.

These errors are also often attributed to a lack of engagement or attention to the task at hand. A nurse who is suffering from stress or depression is much more likely to fail to administer the patient his dosage on time or to administer the wrong dosage of medication. Both of these are potentially dangerous situations that can cause harm and injury to the patient.

Documentation or recording errors are also commonly made by nurses who may be absentminded or not fully alert as a result of their poor emotional health. Failing to record important details like the medications given to the patient, changes in the patient’s condition, nursing actions, and the doctor’s orders regarding the patient’s care can mean compromised patient safety.

It’s not just emotional problems that can impact a nurse’s well being and impact his or her ability to care for the patient, but also physical problems that are linked to stress, including hypertension and diabetes that can raise the risk of medical errors.

Hospitals need to take the depression epidemic in the nursing community seriously and institute programs to boost well being and emotional health. Some have begun to take steps to combat the problem as staff wellness programs are now present at many hospitals, and can include meditation and yoga classes that boost energy, encourage mental calm and promote mindfulness.

Suffering an injury as a result of medical negligence can cause serious trauma to a patient.  Persons who have suffered injuries as a result of medical negligence may be able to file claims for damages. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries as a result of a medical error by a doctor, nurse, clinician, or other health care provider, it is important to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine your legal rights to a claim.