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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Depressed Nurses Prone to Medical Errors

By Gary Evans, Medical Writer

Healthcare workers suffering mental health issues commit more medical errors, endangering patients under their care, researchers report.

The sobering corollary to that finding is that healthcare worker depression and burnout is apparently chronic and widespread. Researchers conducted a descriptive survey in a nationwide sample of 1,790 nurses. More than half the nurses reported “suboptimal” physical and mental health, the authors reported.

Similarly, approximately half of the nurses self-reported committing medical errors in the prior five years. "Compared with nurses with better health, those with worse health were associated with 26% to 71% higher likelihood of having medical errors," the authors reported. They measured depression, anxiety, stress, quality of life, and worksite wellness support.

“This was the first study to actually show that depression was the biggest predictor of medical errors,” says lead author Bernadette M. Melnyk, PhD, RN, dean of the Ohio State University College of Nursing in Columbus. “If you are depressed you’re probably not going to be fully engaged. You’re probably going to be sad and thinking about what is not right in your life.”

The reported medical errors included medication mistakes and lapses in care that lead to patient falls and other preventable conditions.

For more on this story, see the May 2018 issue of Hospital Employee Health.