Physician burnout rates are likely compromising patient care

Friday August 24, 2012

Even if you are one of the lucky individuals who adores your job, you are at risk of burning out. In our workaholic society, it is very easy to get overextended, even in a profession you love. Unfortunately, a recent study indicates that physicians are at an especially high risk for this kind of burnout.

In addition, this kind of burnout risk can actually raise the risk of increased medical malpractice rates as well. After all, individuals who are burned out are more likely to be exhausted, not mentally present and temporarily apathetic about their job duties.

The study was conducted by researchers from the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic and was recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study indicates that nearly half of all American physicians report that they suffer from one or more symptoms of burnout. This significant number of affected physicians is inspiring safety advocates to question how quality of patient care, professionalism, and medical error rates are being affected by this reality.

The burnout symptoms that half of physicians report that they suffer from include feelings of inadequate personal accomplishment, emotional exhaustion, diminished enthusiasm for work, depersonalization and heightened cynicism.

Physicians who practice in certain specialties fare worse than others. For example, internists, family practitioners and emergency medical providers are burning out at more significant rates than dermatologists, pediatricians, pathologists and those specializing in preventative medicine.

Until the medical profession can adjust to account for these high rates of burnout, both healthcare providers and patients should be aware that burnout can affect care and should be as conscious of it as possible for the benefit of patient safety.

Source: TIME Healthland, “Is Your Doctor Burned Out? Nearly Half of U.S. Physicians Say They’re Exhausted,” Alexandra Sifferlin, Aug. 21, 2012

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