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Fatigue can be dangerous for health care providers

When people need to visit their doctor in Washington, they place their full trust in their health care provider’s ability to thoroughly assess their condition and provide recommendations for treatment and recovery from their symptoms. However, there are undoubtedly times when doctors are ineffective in caring for their patients due to misunderstandings, inadequate information and even fatigue. 

Doctors often work long hours and an average shift can be filled with caring for lots of different patients. Each of these patients has differing needs, symptoms, medical histories and allergies. Keeping all of the information straight that they are given can be incredibly challenging at times. Additionally, doctors face common problems that other people face as well including fatigue, family situations and personal problems. Managing all of their emotions and continuing to provide optimal care to each patient they see is a process that requires commitment and vigilance. 

According to The New York Times, studies indicate that the more tired a doctor gets, often as their shift progresses, they face a growing risk of making poor decisions. One study showed that of a group of doctors surveyed, they were only 1 percent likely to prescribe a prescription for antibiotics in the first hour of their shift. However, by hour number four, that number was up to 26 percent. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that skills from motor performance and information retention to communication skills and the ability to concentrate are all affected significantly when a physician is sleep deprived. Experts recommend that health care professionals be aware of the signs that they are fatigued so they can manage their symptoms before they begin to affect their performance and the safety of their patients.