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People visit the hospital for a variety of ailments; some minor, some serious, and some life-threatening. Whether you are getting stitches for a small cut or undergoing a major surgery, the expectation of every patient is basically the same–that you will receive competent and compassionate medical care when you visit the hospital in a time of need. But what happens when medical professionals are sick or injured themselves?

Nurses’ work is not easy. Especially in hospital settings, many nurses must deal with the intellectual rigors and exhausting physical demands of a 12-hour work-day. As a result of working in such an intense and demanding environment, nurses often suffer from injuries themselves.

The American Journal of Nursing reveals that 75 percent of nurses experience some level of physical pain from a muscle sprain or strain while at work. In addition, almost 20 percent of nurses involved in the study had symptoms of depression (twice the rate of depression experienced by the general public).

According to the American Journal of Nursing, the quality of patient care does, in fact, diminish when nurses are in poor health. Researchers discovered that the risks of a patient fall or medication mistake, such as prescription errors and mistakes involving anesthesia or pain medication, increased by about 20 percent when a nurse was in pain or feeling depressed.

The implications of these findings should not be taken lightly. Medication mistakes made by doctors or nurses can have dangerous consequences for patients and may result in serious injury or death. Adding to the problem, nurse-to-patient staffing ratios are not always standardized in hospitals. Because of this, nurses can find themselves in the potentially dangerous situation of caring for more patients than is comfortable. The result is that patients may receive poor or inadequate treatment. Unfortunately, when preventable mistakes are made because our caretakers are sick, injured, or overworked, patients are the ones who suffer the most.