Depression is common among nurses and is linked to a higher likelihood they’ll make medical errors, new research suggests.
The study found that more than half of nurses who took part in a national survey reported sub-optimal physical and mental health. Nurses in poorer health had a 26 to 71 percent higher likelihood of reporting medical errors than did their healthier peers. Depression stood out as a major concern among the 1,790 U.S. nurses who responded to the survey, and as the key predictor of medical errors.
The study, which appears online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, also found that nurses who perceived their workplace as conducive to wellness were more likely to report good health.
The National Academy of Medicine has prioritized clinician well-being in its recently launched action collaborative, acknowledging that burnout, compassion fatigue, depression and poor work-life balance affect a large percentage of doctors, nurses and other health professionals.
The new research is the first large-scale national study to link nurses’ well-being to self-reported medical errors, limiting long shifts and providing easy-to-access, evidence-based resources for physical and mental health, including depression screenings, could go a long way toward improving nurses’ wellness and decreasing the chances that mistakes will be made.
The data came from a survey conducted by the American Academy of Nursing’s million hearts sub-committee of the health behavior expert panel. The survey included 53 questions and was offered through nursing organizations and 20 U.S. hospitals. Only responses from nurses who were in clinical practice were included in the study. The majority of participants were white women and the average age of participants was 44, which closely resembles the demographics of the nursing workforce nationwide.