What about hospital staff taking cat naps on the job? Is that a good idea? Readers in New Jersey may be surprised by recent studies that suggest that naps for doctors and other medical staff could actually reduce surgical errors and other types of medical negligence.
The idea of a doctor performing surgery just after a cat nap might be a bit unsettling for many patients. However, many physicians say that mid-shift naps could improve hospital safety. Indeed, too often than we would like to acknowledge, exhausted hospital staff work for extremely long shifts and thus are likely to commit surgical errors. Some studies have shown that napping could help tired doctors and nurses regain their alertness.
A recent article on the subject refers to an incident in a New York hospital. In that case, which occurred in 1984, an 18-year-old woman died after being treated by an exhausted intern. It was never determined which specific medical treatment caused the woman’s death. However, the case drew needed attention to problems in the way medical training is conducted nationwide. Reportedly, in 1984, interns regularly worked 100 hours per week and 36 blocks of being on call. The interns would often work 36 hours straight without significant rest.
New York is now a state that has sought to regulate the amount of hours interns and residents in training can work. The national organization that regulates medical schooling has also changed its rules. The adjustments came after studies showed that, if an individual stays awake for 24 hours, his or her mental judgment and motor skills are considerably impaired. Such impairment is like that of a person whose blood-alcohol content is too high to properly operate a vehicle.
It may be scary for New Jersey residents to think of a medical professional providing treatment while virtually drunk with sleep deprivation. In any case, when medical errors occur as a result of doctor or hospital negligence, victims of injuries have a right to seek due compensation, even if a doctor has taken a nap before surgery.
Source: Time, “Should Your Doctor Be Napping on the Job?,” Dr. Zachary Merisel and Dr. Jesse Pines, Dec. 30, 2011