A surgeon naps on a hospital bench.

What is one of the consequences of the healthcare workforce shortage? Sleeping on the job, according to a recent study. 

Healthcare solutions firm Tebra surveyed 521 healthcare workers regarding their experiences with sleep deprivation and challenges related to workforce shortages. More than one third of participants had reportedly made a mistake at work as a result of a lack of sleep. One of the most common mistakes was falling asleep at work. Other major errors included administering an incorrect medication or dosage or failing to correctly respond to an emergency situation. As a result, quality of care and patients’ safety suffers the most, according to the study.

“It is essential for healthcare organizations, policymakers and professionals themselves to prioritize addressing staffing shortages and sleep deprivation to safeguard both the well-being of healthcare workers and the quality of patient care,” said Tebra’s Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Marasco in a statement.

Exhaustion is having other effects on healthcare employees’ work. Nearly three quarters feel they are underpaid, 59% feel that their work is unappreciated and 35% report low morale in their workplace. Most reportedly predict an upcoming healthcare crisis as one third of employees plan to quit their job — and some plan to leave the industry altogether — in the coming year. Another study from earlier this year also revealed that staffing challenges are prompting retirement-eligible employees to leave stressful workplaces.

Participants were also surveyed as to what organizational changes they would make to counteract these problems. Almost 75% of respondents said they would increase pay and benefits, and 58% would give workers more scheduling flexibility. The majority of healthcare workers believe benefits are just as important for recruitment and retention as salary, according to a previous study. Furthermore, another study found that flexibility is one of the most-desired changes that clinical and in-home caregivers seek as work-life balance struggles bring more to exhaustion and burnout. 

“Healthcare organizations need to prioritize the well-being of their workforce by implementing strategies to prevent burnout, such as improving work-life balance, providing emotional support, and fostering a positive work environment,” Marasco said. “They should aim to attract and retain healthcare professionals by offering competitive compensation, professional development opportunities, and incentives for career advancement.”