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Study Says Overworked Nurses Pose Danger

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WASHINGTON, Nov 05, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Overworked nurses pose potential danger for patients at many hospitals and nursing homes, the National Academy of Sciences has warned.

Many nurses and nursing assistants work more than 12 consecutive hours, with some working double shifts of 16 hours, the academy said in a new report commissioned by the federal government. Such procedures, it said, cause fatigue, reduce productivity and increase the risk of mistakes that harm patients, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Donald M. Steinwachs, chairman of the health policy department at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the panel of experts who did the study, said fatigue was a "major cause of mistakes and errors" in hospitals and nursing homes.

To reduce "error-producing fatigue," the report said, state officials should prohibit nurses from working more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period or more than 60 hours a week.

Many hospitals and nursing homes have too few nurses to take proper care of patients, the panel said.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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