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Physician burnout a factor in medical malpractice

With medical errors contributing to so many deaths, you may wonder how this happens. Doctors go through years of intense education and must follow so many laws. What is causing so many harmful and deadly mistakes to occur?

Common reasons include poor communication among staff, inaccurate record keeping, improper training and outright neglect of standard practice. However, a factor that may be flying under the radar is physician burnout.

What is burnout?

The health care industry comes with numerous demands on its workers, but not enough people to fulfill duties and not enough time to complete them all. Add on reform to patient care and a focus on lower costs, and physicians feel even more overwhelmed and overburdened.

Burnout leads to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, as well as disconnection from patients and a lack of meaning and motivation in work. Turnover occurs frequently as health care professionals try to find better situations. These consequences in turn affect the treatment patients receive, leading to a high rate of error and hospital-acquired infection.

Who is most at risk?

Although all providers may feel burnout at some point in their career, the rates differ according to speciality. The American Medical Association reports that those in urology, neurology, physical medicine and rehab, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and family medicine experienced the most burnout. Plastic surgeons had the highest increase in comparison to last year. The most common reason was bureaucratic tasks, such as paperwork, with pulling long hours also at the top of the list.

Even medical providers do not always handle the stress in healthy ways. Some resort to drinking, eating junk food or socially isolating themselves, all of which compound the problem instead of help alleviate it.

While physicians need more support and improvements in their work circumstances, it is no excuse for making patients suffer consequences. You can hold healthcare professionals accountable for the mistakes they make.

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