Physician burnout can lead to medical errors. A recent Stanford University School of Medicine study noted a nationwide epidemic of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths each year were caused by medical errors. The study found burned out physicians had twice the odds of self-reported medical error, “after adjusting for specialty, work hours, fatigue, and work unit safety rating.”
Understanding the cause of burnout can help healthcare leaders work with physicians to not only improve their patient care outcomes, it can also lead to increased patient satisfaction, referrals, and financial benefits.
How Bad is Burnout and What are the Reasons?
Medscape’s Annual Physician Lifestyle Report (2018) collated responses from 15,000 physicians across 29 specialties.
• 42% noted burnout with 14% reporting they were both burned out and depressed.
• Among those who noted depression, 40% reported they felt it did not impact their patient care. But, approximately 1/3 did state they felt more exasperated by patients or less engaged.
• 14% admitted their depression leads to errors they wouldn’t normally make.
Reasons (respondents could choose more than one reason)
• 56% noted excess bureaucratic tasks.
• 39% stated there were too many hours at work.
• 20% felt like a cog in a wheel.
• 15% stated organizations chose profits over patients.
How to Help with Burnout and Decrease Medical Errors
Now that Medscape has pulled back the curtain on burnout, the question is how to help physicians and encourage new doctors to enter the field.
A health system can decrease physician burnout by ensuring employees feel appreciated and supported. A happy, refreshed employee is focused during patient care and interactions with colleagues. And while financial incentives will always be valued, they pale in comparison to simple adjustments leaders can make in daily tasks.
• People Power – Ensure there is coverage and physicians aren’t stretched too thin across days or locations.
• Complement Your Staff – Partnering with locum tenens provider companies can offer solutions when current staffing needs assistance. A good LT company will help healthcare systems find the right support staff in a variety of positions to complement existing staff with minimal downtime or friction.
• Give Days of Rest – Holidays, vacations, maternity/paternity leaves, and even FMLA aren’t just necessary for employee’s mental health. People sometimes need time away from the office to refresh and refocus.
• Better Work-Life Balance – Whether it is scheduled time or on-call hours, every staff member wants to know they have the option to say no to a shift, if necessary. In Medscape’s report, 31% wanted a more manageable schedule to ease physician burnout.
In the end, physician burnout and medical errors are realities that the healthcare industry must combat every day. Small steps now can have large rewards later. There’s no better time to take control and help employees. Contact NEXTLocums to learn more and discover how can locum tenens can offer a better work-life balance for current employees and incentives for prospective staff.