Nurse stress linked to medical errors they report, study finds

Critical care nurses' overall health is related to the number of medical errors they report, according to new research published May 1 in the American Journal of Critical Care.

The study — led by researchers at the Ohio State University College of Nursing in Columbus — is based on a survey of 771 members of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Survey results were collected from Aug. 31, 2018, through Aug. 11, 2019.

Researchers found that 39.5 percent of surveyed nurses reported some degree of depressive symptoms, and 53.2 percent reported anxiety symptoms. Additionally, 42.2 percent reported higher stress scores (five or higher out of 10, with lower than five being little or no stress).

Most nurses with higher stress scores (67 percent) reported making medical errors in the last five years, compared to 56.5 percent of the nurses with lower stress scores, according to the study. Among nurses who reported anxiety symptoms, 66.2 percent reported making medical errors in the last five years, compared to 55 percent of the nurses with no anxiety symptoms.

Researchers said they also assessed perceived workplace wellness support by asking "How supportive is your work environment of personal wellness?" They found that nurses with higher perceived workplace wellness support were twice as likely to have better physical health than those with lower perceived workplace wellness support.

The study's authors said there were limitations, including the cross-sectional design and the study's reliance on self-reporting for medical errors. Causality between nurses' overall health and medical errors cannot be inferred, they said.

The authors concluded: "Hospital leaders and healthcare systems need to prioritize the health of their nurses by resolving system issues, building wellness cultures and providing evidence-based wellness support and programming, which will ultimately increase the quality of patient care and reduce the incidence of preventable medical errors."

Read the full study here

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