Physician burnout increases the risk of major medical mistakes

On Behalf of | Dec 24, 2020 | Personal Injury

Medical doctors are some of the most intelligent and highly educated professionals in the country. The decisions they make can have life-or-death consequences for the patients in their care. Unfortunately, doctors are also some of the hardest working and most-stressed professionals.

Trying to balance the demands of a highly demanding job with personal issues, like family problems, can leave physicians exhausted and burned out. Medical burnout is a major contributing factor to mistakes that often constitute medical malpractice.

Unable to perform their best work

Large medical practices and big corporate hospitals have become the norm in modern health care. This can be beneficial because they give patients access to a large network of providers and more equipment and treatment options than a single small practice could offer. The downside is often a major focus on profit.

Doctors are no longer in control of their own schedules. They are at the mercy of their employers, who often restrict how much time they can spend with patients. More than 50% of physicians stress about time management when seeing patients. Another third of doctors worry that they need significantly more time with each individual patient.

Basically, the demands of medical facilities focus more on speed, efficiency and profit margins than on the needs of patients and the highest possible standard of care. Patients with unusual situations or difficult-to-diagnose conditions may struggle more than others when physicians don’t have the time or mental energy to fully devote themselves to a discussion or the act of diagnosis.

How burnout connects to inadequate patient care

A doctor who is physically, emotionally or mentally drained can’t offer the same level of care as a doctor who feels rested and calm. Those burned-out doctors might fail to double-check the prescriptions a patient currently takes, ignore patient-reported symptoms or make egregious mistakes, like leaving tools inside a patient during surgery.

Surgical mistakes, medication errors, inaccurate diagnoses, failure to diagnose and many other fully preventable medical mistakes can result from doctors run ragged by their employers. Anyone hurt by a doctor’s negligence stemming from working too many hours or professional burnout may be able to make a medical malpractice claim against the care provider or their employer depending on the circumstances.