Burned Out Emergency Room Doctors

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Emergency rooms are often times fast-paced, hectic, and stressful workplaces.  It’s not surprising, then, to learn that three out of every four less young emergency room physicians are burned out.

And this can lead to medical errors that harm patients.

Physician burnout is not a new concern.  In September 2018, a study (“Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”) determined that physician burnout doubles the chances for a medical error, unprofessional behavior and low patient satisfaction.

Also last year the Stanford University School of Medicine issued a report establishing a strong link between doctor burnout and medical errors (“Physician Burnout, Well-being, and Work Unit Safety Grades in Relationship to Reported Medical Errors”).

That study of some nearly 6,660 physicians documented that 54 percent of the doctors reported being burned out and almost a third admitted to excessive fatigue.  One of out 10 doctors in the survey admitted to making a mistake in the previous three months. Almost five percent of the errors led to the patient’s death.

Common Medical Errors Caused by Physician Burnout

The most common medical errors made by doctors were:

·         Errors in judgment

·         Misdiagnosis

·         Technical mistakes

The researchers concluded that burned out physicians were more likely to have self-reported mistakes – double the odds compared to doctors who aren’t burned out - and that emergency rooms also experience a high rate of self-reported mistakes.  They determined that the chances for medical errors tripled in medical units that had a high number of doctors who were burned out.

Mistakes Made in Emergency Rooms

A study released earlier this year (“High Prevalence of Burnout Among US Emergency Medicine Residents: Results From the 2017 National Emergency Medicine Wellness Survey”) examined medical errors and the younger doctors working emergency rooms who may be emotionally drained.

Researchers surveyed 1,500 emergency room residents across the county. According to the findings, 76.1 percent of the young doctors were feeling burned out.  Burnout was identified as emotional exhaustion or patient depersonalization. Depersonalization is basically having a negative attitude toward the people physicians are treating.

The rate of burnout in emergency room residents was much higher than previously identified burnout rates for older emergency room physicians and doctors in other medicine specialties.

The researchers concluded that this higher burnout rate was likely linked to the less experienced doctors working long hours in the emergency room, a setting that is demanding in terms of dealing with patients and other physicians, and increased paperwork.

Hospitals and physicians are aware of common causes of medical errors that can lead to needless patient deaths. Unclean operating rooms and patient rooms can lead to surgical site infections, for example.  Many hospitals have established cleaning protocols in response.

But they often aren’t focused on physicians’ mental health, especially younger residents who put in long hours. And ignoring these dangers also needlessly endangers patients.

If a loved one died during medical treatment and you suspect substandard care was involved, contact a lawyer who handles medical malpractice claims about your experience.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog May 20, 2019


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