We’ve done numerous columns on the impact of fatigue on medical errors. A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedingsshowed that physicians reporting excessive fatigue were almost 40% more likely to have reported . But, more surprisingly, the study showed that physicians reporting symptoms of burnout were more than twice as likely to have reported
The study was based upon physicians in the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile invited to respond to an anonymous survey. The survey was completed by 19% of those who opened the request for participation. Note that the term “burnout” was not used in the survey. Rather, questions included symptoms commonly related to burnout.
As with any study based on responses to a survey, there may well be some degree of selection bias and the results show an association but not necessarily causality. But, while there may be some inaccuracy in the actual statistics, we believe the overall message of the study: burnout is a real problem and it contributes to medical errors and untoward patient outcomes.
We, thus, need better ways to recognize physician burnout and interventions to offer support when we recognize it. Other industries have recognized job burnout and developed approaches to address it. We need to borrow from those industries and apply their approaches to healthcare. An excellent review on physician burnout also recently appeared in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Blechter B, Jiang N, Cleland C, et al. Correlates of Burnout in Small Independent Primary Care Practices in an Urban Setting. J Am Board Fam Med 2018; 31(4): 529-536