New research from Ohio State University reveals more than half of nurses across the country are depressed, which makes them prone to medical errors.
More than half of nurses who participated in the national survey – 54 percent – reported poor physical and mental health. Nurses in poorer health had a 26 to 71 percent higher likelihood of reporting medical errors than their healthier peers. The survey showed that for 1,790 U.S. nurses, depression was a major concern – and also the key predictor of medical errors.
About a third said they had some degree of depression, anxiety or stress. Less than half said they had a good professional quality of life.
Self-reported medical errors were common. About half the nurses reported medical errors in the past five years.
The research is the first large-scale national study to link nurses' well-being to self-reported medical errors.
"When you're not in optimal health, you're not going to be on top of your game," said lead author Bernadette Melnyk, dean of The Ohio State University's College of Nursing and chief wellness officer for the university. She suggested that hospital administrators build a culture of well-being and implement strategies to better support both physical and mental health.
It's good for nurses, and it's good for their patients," she said.
When researchers compared the wellness data to the medical error data, they saw a significant link between poor health – particularly depression – and medical errors.
The study appeared online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The findings also showed that nurses who perceived their workplace as conducive to wellness were more likely to report good health. The new research is the first large-scale national study to link nurses' well-being to self-reported medical errors, Melnyk said.
The survey included 53 questions and was offered through nursing organizations and 20 U.S. hospitals. Only responses from nurses who were in clinical practice were included in the study. The majority of participants were white women and the average age of participants was 44, which closely resembles the demographics of the nursing workforce nationwide.