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Does fatigue affect a doctor's decision making?

Typically, we are all far more tired at the end of a busy work shift than we were when we started the day. And the fatigue we feel can negatively affect us in many ways. For example, when we are tired, we may begin to have issues with our motor skills. We also can become irritable and our judgment may suffer. In most situations, the symptoms of fatigue will not cause problems and when our workday ends, we can go home and get the rest we need.

But what happens when fatigue affects someone who makes serious health decisions for others? You may have heard how a doctor will put in long hours during his or her residency. So maybe you believe that this training helps them develop an aversion to the manifestations of fatigue. However, a published study revealed that physicians are susceptible to what is termed "decision fatigue," which increases as the workday progresses.

Researchers examined the diagnoses of almost 22,000 cases of acute respiratory infections treated in primary care practices located in the Boston area during an 18-month period. The results demonstrated that physicians were more prone to prescribe antibiotics to patients as the day went on. Moreover, the increase was quite dramatic, as the prescription rate increased 26 percent by the fourth hour.

The study's lead author, who is a physician, concluded that it is possible that fatigue could cause doctors to make worse decisions near the conclusion of their clinical sessions.

While the study is far from seriously incriminating, it does point out that doctors are human beings and as such they are as vulnerable to the effects of fatigue as anyone else. Unfortunately, their fatigued-induced mistakes could result in a misdiagnosis of medication error. So, if you believe you received treatment from a doctor that led to an injury, a medical malpractice attorney may be able to help you get compensation.

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