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Poor Sleep, Fatigue a Problem for Nurses & Healthcare Workers

Exhausted nurses lean against each other in the COVID-19 ward

When exhaustion sets in, the risk of a workplace injury increases

It's well-known that medical professionals have struggled to cope with COVID-19 even as they battle the disease every day.

In a lot of ways, the pandemic has overwhelmed our healthcare system — and not just the hospitals. Nursing homes, extended care facilities, visiting nurses, school nurses, EMTs, clinics, and community health centers, among other places, are all feeling the pain. Many of the good people who make that system work are in need of care themselves right now.

Unfortunately, not enough people are getting this relief. When healthcare workers are not on top of their game, workplace accidents can happen that result in severe injury.

A recent New York University study took the temperature of nurses working throughout the pandemic. According to the study, being on the front lines of the pandemic and fears of an unsafe workplace have taken a tremendous toll on nurses' health and ability to sleep.

Nurse fatigue

Nurses are so concerned about the dangers of their work that it's affecting their health, the study says.

NYU recently surveyed more than 600 nurses across the U.S. They found that more than half of the nurses (55 percent) had trouble sleeping during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, 52 percent reported having anxiety, and 22 percent reported depression.

Some of the most common workplace injuries in healthcare include sprains, strains, slipped discs, bloodborne infectious diseases, infections, burns, and broken bones.

In Pennsylvania and the U.S., employers are required to provide employees with a work environment that meets state and federal safety standards. A quick spin through OSHA's violation database demonstrates how employers frequently fail to protect workers. Add in worker fatigue, and it creates an environment that's ripe for workplace injuries.

What is keeping nurses up at night?

Nurses who got 5 or fewer hours of sleep before shifts said they were being kept awake at night by their COVID-19 concerns. These included numerous patient deaths, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), understaffing, and misinformation about the disease.

Scheduling also appeared to be a factor in nurse fatigue. Many professionals reported having to work mandatory overtime and having their schedules flip between day and night shifts.

Study authors say that not only is nurse fatigue dangerous for patients, but it's also driving very good nurses out of the profession. A handful of other recent studies say that 45-50 percent of nurses are "burned out."

Researchers say that nurses and other medical staff battling COVID-19 need proper PPE, consistent scheduling, staffing levels, and bed counts, as well as stress management training in order to improve care.

Help for injured Philadelphia health care workers

Healthcare workers have been on the front line in the worldwide battle against COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to drag on, the risk for injury by a fatigued or burned-out co-worker is heightened.

When people are injured on the job in Pennsylvania, they have the right to seek workers' compensation benefits. These benefits are intended to cover the cost of the injured worker's medical bills and a portion of their lost wages.

Just because these benefits exist, however, does not mean that getting them is easy. Navigating the workers' comp process can be difficult, and if you're not careful, you could end up losing out on the benefits you need and deserve. That's why it's in your interest to at least talk to an experienced workers' comp attorney about your situation and get a clear understanding of your legal rights and options.

Schedule a free consultation today

At the Law Offices of Richard A. Jaffe, LLC, our Philadelphia-based firm has years of experience investigating worksite injuries, building strong cases, and aggressively advocating for the best interests of injured workers.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Philadelphia workers' compensation attorney.

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