Sunday, January 9, 2011

Burnout among doctors could hurt patients, too

Burnout among doctors could hurt patients, too

(, 1/4/11)

Patients across the country are seriously at risk for medical errors due to physician burnout. The results of two studies published January 4 in the journal Anesthesiology bear out the crucial nature of this risk. A Vanderbilt University School of Medicine study found doctors, particularly residents, to be at higher risk for burnout than nurses or other medical personnel. A second study by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine revealed that about half of senior physicians (chairs of academic anesthesiology departments) suffer from “high” or “moderately high” burnout.

These findings correlate with previous research showing sleep-deprived doctors make more mistakes in the operating room. Likewise, burned-out physicians – those who work long hours, see patients before and after surgical procedures, perform elective procedures after their nights on call, or are generally dissatisfied with their jobs – are more likely to make medical errors and provide inferior quality of care. The message for patients: Before undergoing a medical procedure, you have a right to know if your doctor is working under these circumstances.

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