Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Doctor burnout and doctor errors

Doctors appear to be particularly prone to job burnout. Such a problem involves more than just the personal well being of the doctor as these doctors also present a risk to their patients.

Overburdened doctors are often guilty of physician errors. Fatigue will interfere with the ordinary tasks that doctors perform every day, and, unfortunately, many physician related errors could in the long run turn out to be anything but minor.

Surveys taken concerning physician fatigue have shown that at least 45.8 percent of doctors exhibited at least one symptom related to job burnout. Without specifically knowing what the survey refers to, it's difficult to determine whether one symptom by itself is of great concern. However, the fact that close to half of such doctors exhibited at a minimum one symptom would also seem to suggest that many doctors also exhibited more than one symptom of burnout.

More significantly, the doctors that most likely exhibited such symptoms are often doctors that were on the front line of emergency care - meaning these may be the first doctors to actually examine a particular patient. These doctors worked on average at least ten hours more than the average individual, and often worked even longer hours.

Combine the average work week with the rate of burnout experienced in the profession and it's easy to understand why this could potentially be a major problem. Since hospitals set the conditions for when a doctor does and does not work, this is the reason why attorneys will hold hospitals every bit as accountable for physician errors as the doctor.

The last thing we want is for a doctor to be distracted in any way from the treatment of any specific patient. Doctors can treat their patients best when focusing on that specific patient and are not burdened by other concerns such as fatigue.

Source: CNN, "Is your doctor burned out?" by Alexandra Sifferlin, August 23, 2012

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