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Research Shows Greater Risk for Medical Errors at Night

Numerous studies have shown that patients who are admitted to the hospital during the night or on a weekend are at a greater risk for medical error. The "weekend effect," as it is called, is the product of reduced medical staff such as doctors and nurses, as well as the fatigue of the staff working the night shift.

While much of the damaging research focused on ailments ranging from heart attacks to resuscitation efforts, it's likely that the quality of care for a woman giving birth is also reduced during evening and weekend hours.

Women who are able to select a time for giving birth may wish to take advantage of this information by scheduling their labor during the day to avoid serious birth injuries caused by medical negligence. However, most women are unable to schedule their labor. Instead, they are subject to the needs of their baby and their body.

Positive Steps to Limit Birth Injuries and Medical Errors

Outside of scheduling the birth of a child, some hospitals throughout the country are taking proactive steps to reduce the "weekend effect." One solution involves hiring a "nocturnist" to work evenings and weekends. The nocturnist, a term coined by a pioneer in the hospital movement, refers to a doctor who is experienced in handling a variety of serious cases. The doctor focuses his or her efforts on caring for admitted patients not in the emergency room.

It is believed that there are more than 1,500 nocturnists at hospitals throughout the country focusing their efforts on evening and weekend care. Just a decade ago, there were less than 100 nocturnists. These specialists usually work three to four shifts each week.

Electronic monitoring and emergency alarm systems are also meant to help improve evening and weekend care. Studies, however, have disputed whether these alarms are useful or whether medical professionals experience alarm fatigue due to the high volume of beeps and alarms.

Even though these important measures may begin to impact the rate of medical errors and medical negligence during evening and weekend hours, more needs to be done to reverse this startling trend. A woman who goes into labor late on a Saturday night shouldn't fear the quality of care she will receive at a local hospital. It is important that hospitals and other medical care facilities recognize this problem and take even more aggressive action to prevent birth injuries and other labor complications.

Contact a Birth Injury Attorney

For more information after a birth injury or medical error during labor, contact a knowledgeable birth injury attorney.


Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.

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