Physician Burnout Leads to Patient Injuries

by | Aug 21, 2016 | Medical Malpractice

Physician burnout, common among doctors, often leads to medical errors that result in patient injuries. If the problem is not treated or corrected, Illinois patients are likely to experience physician errors and medical injuries that require the assistance of a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

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What is Physician Burnout?

Everyone who has a busy work schedule has probably experienced burnout at some point in their career. In demanding, high-level jobs, stress is common but most people recover their drive and energy after a weekend of rest. Physicians often work long hours and double shifts including weekdays, nights and weekends. With little time off, recharging drive and energy become much more difficult.

Physician burnout is a constant threat for all doctors, regardless of age, gender or length of practice. Over the last 20 years, medical studies show that one in three physicians suffer from physician burnout. A 2015 study by the Mayo Clinic revealed alarming statistics that show 54 percent of U.S. physicians have reported at least one symptom of physician burnout.

What are the Symptoms?

Stress and burnout are not the same things. Constant job stress can cause concerns, but most physicians are used to the daily stress caused by diagnosing and treating patient illness. Physician burnout is a more serious concern that typically shows up with three symptoms:

  • Physical and Emotional Exhaustion – The physician is drained after a day at the office, hospital rounds, or being on call and is not able to recover energy with time off. Over time, physical and emotional exhaustion take over.

  • Depersonalization of Patients – Depersonalization typically shows up as cynicism and sarcasm towards job duties and patients. Physician burnout often results in a lack of empathy with doctors who complain and blame their patients.

  • Reduced Sense of Accomplishment – With physician burnout, a doctor may start to question their career path. Burnout often leads to feelings of medical inadequacy and questions about the importance of patient care.

Medical studies show that physician burnout contributes to a higher risk of physician errors. Patients under the care of such physicians are 25 percent more likely to experience diagnostic errors, medication errors, and surgical errors that could result in serious injuries, even fatalities. In Illinois, patients injured by medical errors or negligence typically file medical malpractice lawsuits with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to claim compensation for their injuries.

What Causes Physician Burnout?

According to Medscape surveys, physicians who have experienced physician burnout list three important causes – bureaucratic tasks, long hours, and insufficient income.

  • Bureaucratic Tasks – Physicians list too many bureaucratic tasks as the number one cause of physician burnout. Physicians consider patient care their first priority, but state that regulatory programs result in excessive, burdensome paperwork.

  • Long Hours – Physicians list long hours and lack of control over their schedule as the second cause of burnout. A 2014 survey by the Physicians Foundation revealed that 81 percent of physicians were overextended or at full capacity, and only 19 percent had time to see additional or new patients.

  • Insufficient Income – In 2013, insufficient income went from 5th to 3rd on the list of causes of physician burnout. Physicians list the rise in Medicaid rates and income decline due to Medicare payments as a leading cause.

In the most recent Medscape survey, many physicians stated that they were worried about financial security. Although financial security does not guarantee a burnout-free life, it does reduce some of the risks associated with physician burnout. Except for ophthalmologists, the five most financially secure specialties (anesthesiology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, urology and emergency medicine) were not among the five least burned-out specialties (ophthalmology, dermatology, gastroenterology, pathology and psychiatry).

Medical Errors and Injuries

In the United States, over 200,000 people die each year from medical errors made by physicians and hospitals. Up to 20 times more people suffer from medical errors but don’t die from their injuries. A Chicago medical malpractice attorney often sees patients who suffered injuries in Illinois hospitals due to preventable medical errors. The most common preventable errors include:

  • Misdiagnosis

  • Medication errors

  • Too many blood transfusions

  • Too much oxygen for premature babies

  • Infections caused by healthcare workers

  • Infections caused by inserted lines and tubes

Physician burnout increases the risks of medical errors and injuries, especially in hospitals at peak capacity. Preventable medical errors and negligence cause many Illinois patients to seek compensation for their injuries through a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

In Illinois, the statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the injury. In some cases, medical malpractice actions can be brought up to four years from the date of the injury, but no later, even if the patient was not aware of the malpractice injury until later. If the patient is a minor, the statute of limitations is generally longer.

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