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Why a nurse's sleep schedule affects your care in the hospital

Spending time in the hospital can be stressful for many reasons. A person can be sick or in pain. He or she may be worried about missing work or paying for the care they need, and often, a person just misses being in their own home.

One thing that you probably are not going to be worried about is how well (and whether) the nurse who is taking care of you slept last night. However, this detail could affect the care you receive.

Sleep schedules and nursing

According to a recent study, nurses sleep less before they start a shift than they sleep on days off. On average, they get nearly 90 minutes less sleep before work days.

The nursing occupation is incredibly demanding on its own. And between overtime, odd hours and lengthy shifts, many nurses are not getting enough sleep to begin with. Add in the tendency to sleep fewer hours before a shift and the potential for a sleep-deprived nurse to be on the job can increase.

Why sleep schedules matter

Nurses have countless responsibilities, from administering medication and helping patients get to the bathroom to assisting doctors and providing emotional support for patients. 

If a nurse is sleep deprived, his or her performance in these areas could suffer. Fatigue can lead to confusion, mood changes, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. People can also be more likely to lose their balance or get into an accident.

Each of these effects of sleep deprivation could put patients at risk of suffering medical mistakes such as medication errors, falls and misread test results.

Protecting patients by protecting nurses

Nurses are essential to the quality and care people receive in hospitals and clinics across Rhode Island. If they are overworked or do not get enough rest during days off, patient health could suffer.

Because of this, it is important to hold hospitals and other medical professionals responsible if sleep deprivation leads to a mistake. Doing so not only allows those injured by a medical error to recover financial compensation, it can also highlight a potentially larger problem and trigger systemic changes.

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