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Sleep-deprived medical staff ‘pose same danger on roads as drunk drivers’

About half of all hospital doctors and nurses have had accidents or experienced near misses while driving home after a night shift.

The risks they pose to themselves and other road users have been calculated as the same as those posed by drivers who are over the legal alcohol limit, delegates at a European medical conference were told last week.

As a result, health experts have called for doctors and nurses to be allowed to take 20-minute power naps during night shifts. This would make their journeys home safer and would also help to protect patients from mistakes they might make through tiredness when administering drugs or other treatments.

“When fatigue sets in, we in the medical and nursing team are less empathetic with patients and colleagues, vigilance becomes more variable, and logical reasoning is affected, making it hard for us to calculate, for example, the correct dose of drugs a patient might need,” consultant anaesthetist Nancy Redfern of Newcastle hospital said last week.

“We find it hard to think flexibly, or to retain new information, which makes it difficult to manage quickly changing emergency situations. Our mood gets worse, so our teamwork suffers. Hence, everything that makes us and our patients safe is affected.”

Research found that workers who drive home after a 12-hour shift are twice as likely to have a crash as those working eight-hour shifts.

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Source: The Guardian, 4 June 2022


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