You place a considerable amount of trust in your doctor for your health care needs. You do so because you expect him or her to have the education and experience in medicine to provide you with the best treatment methods possible. However, doctors are human just like anyone else. They face pressures in the workplace due to their responsibilities that are somewhat unique among many professions as they hold the lives of many in their care. These factors and others can contribute to doctors experiencing stress, burnout, and breakdown.
A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings on July 9 discovered that more than half of doctors in the U.S. are currently suffering from some sort of workplace burnout. Unfortunately, this condition can increase the likelihood of medical errors that negatively affect patients.
Nationwide epidemic of medical errors
Nearly 6,700 doctors were surveyed in the study regarding various aspects of their profession. The questions posed covered topics such as workplace safety, workplace burnout, fatigue, depression, and suicidal thoughts. More than 10 percent of the doctors responding to the survey admitted to making at least one important medical error in the three months leading up to the survey. In addition, the study’s authors found that doctors with burnout symptoms were at about two times the risk of performing a medical error than those without the symptoms.
It was also revealed that even in medical work units considered extremely safe, the number of medical errors in those units tripled when the presiding physicians in those units experienced high levels of burnout. According to Daniel S. Tawfik, MD, MS, one of the study’s authors, this leads to the suggestion that burnout may be a larger contributing factor to medical errors than even an inadequate safety environment.
The study explained that burnout in the workplace is known to lead to cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and a decrease in effectiveness. Professionals working in any industry are susceptible to this condition, but burnout is frequently found in the medical profession due to the intense, high stress working environments combined with long hours. Among medical professionals, the study found that the most frequent medical mistakes related to burnout involved errors in technical performance, errors in medical judgment, and errors in diagnosis.
Medical errors as dangerous as heart disease and cancer
Heart disease and cancer are the number one and number two causes of death in the U.S., respectively. Individuals can implement a plan to reduce their risk for these diseases by eating healthy, exercising, etc. However, avoiding the third most common cause of death – which are medical errors, according to a John Hopkins medical study – is a much more challenging proposition. Patients often go to the doctor when they are sick or injured. Often, they are subject to the capabilities of their doctor as well as any weaknesses the doctor may be experiencing, such as burnout.
With approximately 250,000 people dying each year in the U.S. from medical errors, the cost of these errors also greatly impacts the personal finances of individuals and the nation as a whole. It is estimated that medical errors in the U.S. cost nearly $20 billion each year.
If medical professionals have engaged in medical malpractice against you or a family member, you need strong representation to advocate effectively for the financial recovery you are owed. At Crandall & Pera Law, we can help. To set up a free, no-obligation consultation with a medical malpractice attorney from our team, call us in Ohio or Kentucky at 877.686.8879, or fill out our contact form.