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Burnout may be to blame for many medical mistakes

Kentucky residents who work in high-stress environments that involve many intense interactions with others are at a high risk for burnout. This reversible condition is characterized by physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion, sometimes revealing itself in cynicism, depression and thoughts of suicide. A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has revealed that more than half of all doctors in the nation suffer burnout.

Furthermore, it has found that burned-out doctors are twice as likely to commit a medical error, such as misdiagnoses and technical errors during a surgical or other procedure. Previous studies have shown how burned-out doctors will prescribe the wrong drug or the wrong dosage, request too few or too many lab tests, and cause patients to fall or become infected.

This study consisted of a poll that asked nearly 6,700 clinic and hospital physicians whether they were suffering from the symptoms of burnout and whether they had made a medical error in the three months prior. Approximately 10 percent said yes to the latter. Moreover, the rate of errors was not affected by the relative safety of their workplaces.

Researchers estimate that medical errors contribute to somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 patient deaths every year. They recommend that medical centers limit work hours and the amount of paperwork that physicians deal with, giving more time to patients instead.

When there is a case of medical malpractice, victims will want to find out as much about the circumstances as possible. This may help strengthen their claim should they decide to file one. It can be a good idea to have a lawyer evaluate the claim; he or she may also be able to assist by requesting an inquiry with the medical board and hiring medical experts to determine the extent of the injuries. Victims might leave negotiations for a settlement to their lawyer as well.

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