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Looking after the health of nurses

Nurses dedicate their careers to caring for patients, but the stressful nature of their work can also give them health problems of their own. An entry posted on the New York Times' Well blog earlier today emphasizes the importance of taking care of nurses too.

The article cites recent research published in The American Journal of Nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist, which found that health of nurses and their patients may be more connected than we think. Pauline Chen, MD, writes:

Researchers developed a questionnaire for registered nurses working at hospitals, asking them about their own health and the extent to which their injuries or illnesses might affect their work. Analyzing more than 1,000 responses, the researchers found that almost 20 percent of the nurses questioned had symptoms of depression, an incidence twice as high as for the general population. In addition, roughly three-quarters of the nurses experienced some level of physical pain from a muscle sprain or strain while at work.

The researchers then looked at the quality of the nurses' work. A small percentage of nurses reported that they had made a recent medication error or that a patient had fallen while under their care. Adjusting the analysis to take into account how the nurses were feeling, researchers discovered that the risks of a patient fall or medication mistake increased significantly - by about 20 percent - the more a nurse was in pain or depressed.

Previously: Supreme Court's decision means more physicians are needed, Nursing: The need to make a difference and Retiring physicians and nurse could strain health-care system

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