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Doctor Burnout Can Be Deadly For Patients

New study reports more than half of U.S. physicians say they are physically and mentally exhausted

Doctor rubbing forehead at hospital

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Research indicates more than fifty percent of physicians report stress and depression.

Job burnout is common in many professions. But if you are a doctor, it can be deadly for your patients.

A new study published this week in Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds that more than 50 percent of American physicians experience burnout, and the stress, exhaustion and depression that come with it are associated with major medical mistakes.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed 6,695 physicians in active practice and asked them about burnout, fatigue and suicidal thoughts. What they discovered was 54 percent of the doctors had symptoms of burnout; 6.5 percent contemplated suicide; and more than 10 percent reported committing at least one significant medical error in the previous three months, with approximately one in 20 being deadly.

 "When a physician is experiencing burnout, a wide range of adverse events may occur," lead study author Daniel Tawfik, M.D., an instructor in pediatric critical care at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told WebMD. "In our study, the most common errors were errors in medical judgment, errors in diagnosing illness and technical mistakes during procedures."

Several U.S. medical centers, such as Mount Sinai Health System in New York City and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, have appointed chief wellness officers just to address the ongoing mental and physical health of their staff. Tawfik advised doctors to strive for better self-care, which may include mindfulness training and limiting work hours. He also noted that overall administrative reforms are needed to allow doctors to have "more time with patients and increased joy in medicine."

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