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How physician burnout negatively affects patient care

If you or your loved one is receiving medical care in Maryland, you should be concerned with the doctor's physical and mental health. A number of studies have shown that physicians experiencing "burnout" are more likely to make medical mistakes. Physicians who are eating well, exercising and sleeping well generally have better patient outcomes than doctors who are experiencing physical and mental exhaustion, depression and other health issues.

One study revealed a clear correlation between physician depression and the mistakes they make, including surgical errors, while treating patients. In fact, after studying pediatric residents in various training programs, residents with depression made six times as many medication-related errors as non-depressed residents. Another issue is that residents experiencing burnout think that they are making more mistakes than they actually are.

What can be done to help reduce burnout among residents and the medical errors associated with it? Some experts suggest additional medical training to teach doctors how to deal with patients, by showing them how to handle issues like conflict or patient distress. Work hours are also obviously a concern, but reducing the number of hours worked is not enough. Hospitals also need to consider the elements of the workplace environment, such as time pressures and what the doctor is expected to do during his or her work hours.

Because physician burnout is so prevalent, many patients and their families end up the victims of medical errors. Medical errors may lead to additional medical procedures that could cause additional injuries as well as cause financial difficulties. Many families find that the only way to afford these treatments and make up for their pain and suffering is to file a lawsuit against the negligent physician and hospital for their injuries.

Source: The New York Times, "Taking Care of the Physician," Dr. Perri Klass, Nov. 13, 2017

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