Medical malpractice

Physician Burnout Major Cause of Medical Errors

August 20, 2018 by Carrie Capouellez
Physician Burnout

Every now and then we all get a feeling of being burned out. Whether it’s the continual grind at work or dealing with stress at home that affects your work, the burnout sensation is one we all have to deal with. Something we don’t think about, however, is when doctors and medical professionals feel exhausted or burnt out. Unfortunately, new research shows burned out doctors are more likely to make major medical errors, regardless of workplace safety measures.

According to Dr. Tawfik of the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, burnout is a work-related syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and feeling less effective on the job. Healthcare workers and anyone else with a stressful job involving intensive interaction with other people can often find themselves at particularly high risk of burnout. Not only that, but more than half of physicians are estimated to have burnout, while 45 percent say they experience excessive amounts of fatigue.

While this obviously isn’t good for physicians, it’s especially bad for the patients they treat, as there is growing evidence that physician burnout can impact patient safety and potentially contribute to medical error. Dr. Tawfik and his colleagues conducted a study of over 6,000 U.S. doctors, which found 78 percent of doctors who reported errors had symptoms of burnout, compared to 52 percent of those who did not report errors.

Though the study did not specifically look at whether burnout is causing errors or the errors are causing the burnout, the two go hand-in-hand. This is because burned out physicians are more likely to report work errors, and physicians who report errors are more likely to report burnout.

While these findings are discouraging, patients should always feel like they have the option to speak up anytime they feel like someone or something could be putting them at risk. Dr. Tawfik went on to say, “any health care professional, whether they’re experiencing burnout or not, should be receptive to that.”

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 250,000 deaths occurring each year due to error and negligence. In many instances, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be the only option a family has to recover damages for the losses and pain they will be forced to endure.

Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you or someone you love suffered a medical error from physician burnout in a Philadelphia hospital, you have legal options. Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP today for a free consultation.

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