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Nurses’ mental, physical health tied to preventable medical errors

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, critical care nurses (CCN) were experiencing alarmingly high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and poor physical health—factors that correlated with an increase in self-reported medical errors, according to a new study by The Ohio State University College of Nursing.

Nearly two-thirds (60.9%) of the CCNs reported having made medical errors in the past five years, according to the study. Occurrence of medical errors was significantly higher among nurses in worse health than those in the bet­ter health categories. For example, 67% of the nurses with higher stress scores versus 56.5% of the nurses with no or little stress reported having made medi­cal errors in the past five years.

However, critical care nurses whose organizations put strong emphasis on their well-being are more likely to be fully engaged in patient care and make fewer medical errors, according to lead author Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of Ohio State’s College of Nursing.

Accurate estimates of deaths from preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals vary widely because of inconsistent reporting methods:

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