Home E-Weekly December 12, 2017

Depression Could Cause Nurses to Make More Medical Errors

Published: December 11, 2017

SELF-CARE A new study shows that by not taking care of their own health, nurses could be putting patients at greater risk.

Depression and illness could cause nurses to make more medical errors than those who have optimal health, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study surveyed 1,790 nurses across the United States with an average age of 44. Nurses were asked to answer 53 questions pertaining to their physical and mental health.

Of those surveyed, 54% reported poor physical and mental health, and another one-third said they had some degree of depression, anxiety or stress. The study found that nurses who reported poorer health had a 26 to 71% higher chance of reporting medical errors than nurses who reported being healthy. Depression was an especially key predictor of medical errors.

"When you're not in optimal health, you're not going to be on top of your game," said lead study author Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, dean of The Ohio State University's College of Nursing, in a press release from the university. "Nurses do a great job of caring for other people, but they often don't prioritize their own self-care."

The study also found that nurses who perceived their workplace as being more conducive to wellness had a higher likelihood of reporting good health. Based on that finding, Dr. Melnyk recommends that health care facilities take steps to improve the wellness of their staff. Among her suggestions? Try to limit long shifts and provide easy access to resources for physical and mental health, including depression screenings. By improving your staff's health, you ultimately could improve your patient outcomes.

Brielle Gregory

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