Health care providers face a high risk of exhaustion due to their occupation’s high-stress levels. As reported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health website, nearly one out of three doctors experience burnout during any given moment, a statistic that may account for a greater chance of a medication or treatment error.
According to the 2020 Medscape National Physician Burnout and Suicide Report, approximately 43% of physicians studied experienced extreme stress levels. Both male and female practitioners reported experiencing symptoms in an equal amount related to feelings of exhaustion.
2020 study ranked burnout by medical specialty
The 2020 Medscape report ranked physicians’ incidence of exhaustion based on 29 different areas of practice. Urologists experienced the highest degree of fatigue. Fifty-four percent of doctors treating patients for urinary tract issues reportedly felt symptoms of burnout from their work. Practitioners specializing in neurological disorders placed second with 50% of neurologists experiencing occupational burnout. Nephrology specialists ranked third.
Errors made by exhausted physicians may harm patients
Burnout may lead to a physician misdiagnosing a patient’s condition or prescribing the wrong medication. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, preventable errors include a doctor entering incorrect information regarding a patient’s medication. The FDA receives at least 100,000 reports of suspected medication errors each year. Reported errors have resulted in disabilities, birth defects and deaths in addition to other serious injuries.
Medical professionals who interact directly with patients may face high risks of occupational burnout. If they do not find ways to effectively manage their stress, the emotional exhaustion may harm their patients by causing otherwise preventable injuries. Individuals who incur a serious illness or severe injury from a health care practitioner’s negligence may file a legal action for damages.