Physician Burnout, Depression and Physician Error
Every job makes you tired. Whether it’s staring at a computer screen or being a trauma surgeon; everyone gets tired. Every job has a point where the employees burn out. When you burn out of a job, you care less about the quality of your work. You might not notice you are burning out. You don’t notice that the quality of your work is deteriorating. If you are a marketing manager, if you slack a little and don’t put as much into your work, you aren’t hurting anyone—at least not on a major scale. But when a physician is burned out, the care you receive could drastically alter your life.
What Researches Are Trying to Figure Out
This is kind of a “what came first” question: the chicken or the egg question. What comes first? The depression or the burnout? The errors or the depression? The list goes on and on. Researchers at Stanford University conducted a survey. It included physicians across the country and across all specialties. This survey was anonymous so there was no backlash to what the doctors reported. The questionnaires asked the doctors to measure their levels of burnout, well-being, depression, and fatigue. They were also asked to rate whether their workplace felt safe and to comment on the major medical errors. The results of the survey are somewhat unnerving.
Results of the Survey
The survey results scary. Fifty-five percent of doctors responding to this survey reported symptoms of burnout. To us, this isn’t too surprising after you think about everything that a doctor goes through to simply practice medicine. Thirty-three percent of those doctors expressed high levels of fatigue. Caring for people and basically having the patient’s lives in your hands would make anyone tired. Now, six and a half percent said that they had thought about killing themselves within the last year. That is three to five times the rate of the general public. Medical errors happen more than twice as much as with burned out doctors than they do with “fresh” doctors. Dr. Daniel Tawfik explained that the level of burnout correlates with the physician error.
Is There Going to be a Fix?
Dr. Jonathan Ripp, the chief wellness officer of the Mount Sinai Health System and associate dean for Well-Being and Resilience at Mount Sinai Hospital, said that the biggest problem is the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system. Mount Sinai Health System is a handful of establishments that has assigned a “wellness officer”. This will hopefully improve the well-being of the medical staff as boost morale. Ripp says, “We need to manage expectations, and this takes time. By making system and individual level changes, the result should be greater meaning derived from work and less burnout.”
When doctors are burned out, as mentioned, there is a higher chance of mistake. We see these mistakes frequentlyand we don’t want them to happen to you or anyone else. This is an important topic to discuss with your peers if you are a doctor and with your doctors if you are a patient. Having an honest, well-rested, and engaged doctor is the key to having successful care and treatment.
Our information source is cited in the article. If you were involved in this incident or a similar incident and have questions about your rights and options, call us or another reputable law firm.