Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the ways in which physicians' lack of sleep is impacting patient safety and the quality of patient care in America. We noted specifically that sleep deprivation is frequently a contributor to the kinds of medical errors which lead to medical malpractice suits. Failure to address the issue of physician sleep deprivation will only lead to these mistakes repeating over and over again.
In recent years, the federal government has invested an extraordinary amount of time and resources to address the issue of trucker fatigue. When commercial truck drivers fail to obtain adequate rest, their judgment, ability to react quickly and ability to perform their jobs safely becomes impaired. Many innocent bystanders die on American roads as a result of trucker fatigue. The same effort that has been put into addressing trucker fatigue must now be put into combating the critical patient safety hazard of physician fatigue.
Sleep deprivation leads to drastically diminished performance. The evidence keeps coming in on that subject. A fatigued motor vehicle driver is a more dangerous driver, more prone to errors. The same is true of fatigued physicians. Doctors who are short on sleep are more likely to make mistakes and commit medical malpractice.