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When we work is often as important as how we work

Published

2018

Tue

28

Aug

 
 
 
 
 
 
Aneesa Bodiat*, Head of Legal 
Natmed Medical Defence (Pty) Ltd
 
 
 
 
 
Doctors should be wary of afternoons, because this is when most medical mistakes happen.
 
Bestselling author Daniel Pink scoured countless research papers and dissected the science of timing, bringing his insights together in his bestselling book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
 
He found that afternoons are particularly bad times for healthcare work.
 
For example:
  • Errors in anaesthesia are three times more likely to occur for afternoon procedures (around 3pm) than morning surgery (between 9am and noon).
  • Unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed more often in the afternoon.
  • Handwashing for both nurses and doctors plummets in the afternoon.
  • Colonoscopies are less thorough when done in the afternoon.
So, what is a vigilant healthcare provider to do?
 
One helpful factor is awareness. If healthcare providers know that afternoons tend to be black holes in which mistakes are more likely to happen, they are more able to guard against these mistakes, by taking special care during afternoon work.
 
Taking systematic, regular breaks can also help. These breaks have to be meaningful, allowing for complete detachment from work. Frequent breaks that involve movement or nature are good options. Social breaks are also good for mental rejuvenation.
 
For example, health care professionals would do well to build walking breaks outside into their daily routine.
 
Chronotherapy is another interesting area of research promoting the theory that the timing of surgery and other medical interventions matter. Chronotherapy is the idea that the body reacts to medical interventions differently based on the time of day and the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Wounds that occur during the day tend to heal faster than wounds that occur at night.
 
Studies have also found that surgeries performed earlier in the week have better outcomes than those performed on the weekend.
 
With medical malpractice cases alarmingly on the rise, medical practitioners should use every tool in their arsenal to avoid mistakes where possible. Doctors and hospitals have a range of research to draw from in helping them to schedule surgeries. So, apart from emergency cases, when surgeries can be planned and scheduled, careful thought should be given to timing. Doctors who perform a lot of elective surgeries may want to take the research into account where possible, to maximise the chance of a positive outcome.
 
*Aneesa Bodiat is Head of Legal at Natmed Medical Defence (Pty) Ltd and has a wealth of legal knowledge and experience in the insurance and financial industries.
 
Completing both her degrees, a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws, with distinction, Aneesa then worked as an attorney at a multinational law firm before moving into legal marketing and consulting. Aneesa has written many articles and run seminars and training sessions with topics ranging from Treating Customers Fairly to the Protection of Personal Information Act.  
 
Source: Natmed Medical Defence (Pty) Ltd
 
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