Alert on Fatigue and Strategies to Mitigate

The Joint Commission issued alert that highlights the hazards of health care worker fatigue and offers strategies to mitigate it. The alert listed nine steps providers can take to lower the risk of harm, including redesigning work schedules, educating staff about the dangers of long hours and encouraging a culture of safety.

For example, in a 2004 study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Landrigan and colleagues found that interns in intensive-care units who worked 30-hour shifts on a regular basis made five times as many diagnostic errors and 36% more serious medical errors as those who worked no more than 16 consecutive hours at a time.

The Joint Commission’s alert is the latest in a series labeled to draw attention to the issue of fatigue-related safety risks. In June 2010, 26 experts in medicine, sleep science and patient safety gathered at a conference at Harvard Medical School to discuss ways to implement the Institute of Medicine’s 2009 recommendations for resident work hours.

The results of that conference were published in a NSS-19649-implementing-the-2009-institute-of-medicine-recommendations-_062111, which included guidance on imposing work-hour limits and redesigning the handoff process.