Health Care Work Environment May Lead To Medical Mistakes

A report released by the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Lucian Leape Institute suggests that workers in the health care field face unpleasant and even dangerous working conditions. Unhappy, unhealthy workers may increase the likelihood of medical mistakes leading to patient harm. Among the signs that workers in the medical field are being pushed beyond their limits is an increasing rate of occupational injuries. Some health care jobs suffer elevated injury rates. The health care field has an injury rate that is one-third higher than for private industry as a whole.

If hospitals do not respect the health and safety of their employees, there is no reason to think they will respect the health and safety of patients. Numerous reports of disruptive, combative behavior in hospitals have surfaced. Many employees complain of uncivil conduct that is allowed to continue on a daily basis, making the workplace an unpleasant place to be. Whether an employee is the target for abuse, the abuser, or simply a witness to the conduct, the result is a demoralized employee with a negative attitude toward the hospital or medical facility.

Many doctors and nurses complain about the amount of time they are asked to spend on administrative tasks and other items that do not directly involve patient care. High burnout rates and a frustrated workforce are bad news for patients and patient safety advocates. While some studies have indicated that doctors are not doing more work now than they were in years past, the feeling of being overwhelmed and the job dissatisfaction that goes with it cannot have a positive impact on patients.

Unhappy workers tend to make mistakes. Those mistakes can lead to injuries to the worker, as well as to injuries among patients. Health care facilities need to spend more time and effort improving the working conditions for their employees in order to get closer to the goal of improving patient safety and delivering high quality care.

Source: American Medical News, “Warning sounded on demoralized health care work force,” by Kevin B. O’Reilly, 18 March 2013