Work-related stress leads to more surgical errors

It's no secret that stress can make workers inattentive and careless. For doctors in particular, however, even something as small as a negative thought or a loud noise can be dangerous. Residents of Kentucky should know that researchers at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University recently discovered this and much more.

For the study, a professor of surgery was asked to wear a high-tech "smart shirt" under his scrubs during 25 surgical procedures, most of them gastric bypasses. This shirt measured electrical pulses from the heart and recorded any variations in times between heartbeats, which are good indicators of increased stress. During the procedures, a researcher documented any mistakes.

The study found that during moments of increased stress, the likelihood of a mistake rose by as much as 66 percent. Distractions in the operating room can be numerous with people walking in and out, side conversations taking place, equipment malfunctioning and machines sounding alarms from time to time.

The research was published in the open access journal BJS Open back in September 2018. Researchers hope that other studies will build on their results and help make operating rooms a safer place for patients. For example, future studies could focus more on how every stressor affects the doctor's performance differently.

This is an important step because medical errors are causing between 250,000 and 400,000 deaths every year in the U.S. An individual who is injured in a surgical error may be eligible for compensation, but they might want legal assistance when filing their medical malpractice claim. A lawyer could hire third-party professionals to conduct an investigation into the matter, obtaining proof that the doctor failed to live up to an objective standard of care. The victim can have their lawyer negotiate for a settlement, taking the case to court as a last resort.

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