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What's the link between fatigue and doctor errors?

Television shows glamorize the lives medical professionals lead and often sideline a very real side effect of being a doctor or surgeon -- burnout. A national survey demonstrated that more than half of doctors surveyed are burned out and those doctors are more likely to make mistakes. Massachusetts residents may be surprised to hear that of the 6,700 clinic and hospital physicians surveyed about medical errors and workplace depression and burnout, more than 10 percent revealed that they had committed at least one significant medical mistake in the three months preceding the survey.

Burnout is a reversible work-related syndrome. Its main characteristic is emotional exhaustion and often features decreased effectiveness. Though doctors are not the only ones to experience it, it is commonly linked to physicians because their occupation often creates high risk situations and intense interactions with people.

Doctors experiencing burnout were more likely to make medical errors, including those related to medical judgment, diagnosis and technical mistakes during procedures. Health care facilities where doctor burnout was more common saw their medical mistake rate triple, the survey found, even if their overall workplace safety was not a problem.

Patients who go to see a doctor have little idea about how long the doctor has been working before seeing him or her or how many papers they have to fill out after the appointment or procedure is over. However, patients are most often the unknowing victims of medical errors that could ruin the quality of their life. If someone suspects they are the victim of medical negligence they might want to consider filing a medical malpractice claim to highlight the issue.

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