Could Burnout Be Causing Medical Malpractice All Over the Country?

Photo of Surgeons at an Operating Table Working on a Patient

When it comes to standards, few professions are held to as high a mark as doctors. And why shouldn’t they be? Doctors are often entrusted with the health and lives of the sick and injured. The smallest mistake could have dire consequences, so standards are naturally high. But could something as simple as fatigue be increasing the number of mistakes doctors make all over the country?

Why Burnout Could Be Causing Medical Malpractice

A paper written by doctors at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine examined data monitoring physician burnout and work satisfaction from 2011 to 2014. They found that over the course of those years, physician burnout increased from 45.5 percent to 54.4 percent. Why did doctor burnout jump almost 10 percent in three years? Some analysts believe it has to do with changes in our medical system.

In an attempt to address the frequency of medical errors in the country, the medical field has been adopting new practices. Checklists as well as evening out job roles between nurses, clinicians and doctors have been employed to reduce medical errors. However, some believe that these measures are increasing stress at work and causing doctors to experience burnout. This can be a serious problem when considering the results of a study from the Mayo Clinic.

In the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a national survey of 6,586 doctors found that 1 in 10 doctors reported having made a major medical error within the three months prior to the survey. When trying to find a cause for these errors, researchers found that doctors reporting symptoms of burnout were twice as likely to have reported a major medical error. Even more concerning is the fact that over half of the doctors surveyed reported experiencing burnout.

The results of these studies could mean that the possibility of falling victim to a major medical error is increasing. That means patients may need to take steps to help protect themselves and their loved ones from falling victim to medical malpractice. Currently, medical errors are considered the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Is there any way we can prevent medical errors from climbing that list?

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