Physician burnout doubles risk of patient safety issues, study finds | Doctors

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According to a global study, physicians suffering from burnout are much more likely to be involved in incidents where patient safety is compromised.

Burned-out physicians are also much more likely to consider quitting, to regret choosing medicine as a career, to be dissatisfied with their jobs, and to receive low patient satisfaction ratings.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, have raised new concerns about the well-being and pressures on NHS doctors, given widespread evidence that many are suffering from stress and exhaustion from overwork.

A joint team of British and Greek researchers analyzed 170 previous observational studies on the links between doctors’ burnout, their professional commitment and the quality of patient care. These articles were based on the opinions and experiences of 239,246 doctors in countries like the US, UK and others in Africa, Asia and elsewhere in the world.

They found that burnt-out doctors were twice as likely as their peers to have been involved in patient safety incidents, to demonstrate low levels of professionalism, and to have been poorly rated by patients. for the quality of care they provided.

Physicians between the ages of 20 and 30 and those working in A&E or intensive care were most likely to suffer from burnout. It has been defined as including emotional exhaustion, depersonalization – a “negative, insensitive” detachment from their work – and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

Burnout is a huge problem among NHS doctors. The General Medical Council’s latest annual survey of trainee doctors in the UK, published in July and based on responses from 67,000 doctors, found that “the risk of burnout is now at its worst since it was was first attended in 2018” due to heavy workloads, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two-thirds of interns told the Regulator Physician that they “always” or “often” felt exhausted at the end of their working day, while 44% regularly felt “exhausted in the morning at the thought of another working day”.

The BMJ article states, “This systematic review and meta-analysis provides compelling evidence that physician burnout is strongly associated with physician professional disengagement and suboptimal patient care.”

In January, the Medical Defense Union, which represents doctors accused of wrongdoing, released survey results showing that a large minority of doctors are sleep deprived and 26% of them said the fatigue had affected their ability to provide safe care.

Dr Michael Farquhar, an expert on sleep problems in children at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust in London, said sleep deprivation made doctors more likely to make mistakes such as miscalculating medicine doses. They may also take longer to assess a patient’s symptoms and arrive at a diagnosis, he added.

Responding to the BMJ’s new findings, Dr Latifa Patel, chair of the representative body of the British Medical Association, said: ‘This report will come as no surprise to doctors and medical students. Burnout isn’t just about personal well-being or job satisfaction – it’s about patient safety.

“Tired, undervalued and understaffed doctors are unable to perform to the best of their abilities and these numbers throw into worrying light what that means for patient care.

“The tragic consequences of burnout have their roots in the workforce crisis, and if the NHS cannot recruit or retain its staff, the vicious cycle of poor quality patient care will only accelerate.”

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director of the Medical Protection Society, another medical advocacy body, said: ‘When doctors are exhausted and burnt out, it not only harms their personal well-being, but also jeopardizes care. to patients.

“If we don’t act now, sadly, many more passionate and committed doctors will burn out and become disillusioned. Others will choose to leave the medical profession, resulting in a loss of expertise for patients and even more pressure on limited resources.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it had taken steps to improve patient safety. It required all NHS trusts in England to tell patients if their safety has been compromised and to apologise, give legal protection to whistleblowers and appoint a ‘freedom of speech guardian’ in every trust with whom staff concerned about security issues are encouraged to raise concerns.

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