Knowledgeable and Experienced Guidance

Doctor burnout can lead to fatal mistakes

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2018 | Medical Malpractice |

There are many reasons that a medical professional in North Carolina may make a mistake. According to ABC News, one of those reasons could be burnout.

A recent survey of more than 6,600 doctors currently practicing medicine revealed that over half had symptoms associated with burnout, and about a third were highly fatigued. Why is this significant? Because research shows that doctors with signs of burnout are more than twice as likely to make medical mistakes, and 38 percent more likely to make mistakes if they are fatigued. 

The self-reporting in the anonymous survey took an even darker turn, with more than 10 percent of the doctors saying they made a major medical mistake in the three months prior to the survey. One in 20 of those mistakes resulted in the death of a patient. Emergency room doctors, neurosurgeons and radiologists were the medical professionals with the highest rate of mistakes, and the most common of the mistakes were misdiagnoses, errors in judgment and technical mistakes.

Per the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are five main reasons that doctors suffer burnout, and the first is that the profession is inherently stressful. Certain types of medical professionals do suffer more stress, though, such as in the case of ER doctors and neurosurgeons. In addition, specific circumstances surrounding any given job may create stress:

  • Call rotation
  • Hospital politics and leadership
  • The people on the work team
  • Personality clashes in the department
  • The provider group

During medical training, doctors may come to understand that developing particular character traits will make them more successful. However, three of these – working harder to overcome challenges, trying to take on challenges alone and micromanaging everyone involved – are also behaviors that can raise doctors’ risk of burnout.

Experts note that many of the issues that cause burnout must be tackled at the system level by those in leadership positions in hospitals and other medical facilities. However, doctors may be able to lessen their stress levels somewhat by addressing the issues under their control in their work situation and finding ways to replenish their energy levels when they are not at work.