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Burned out doctors make mistakes, survey finds

New Jersey residents might be interested in a new national survey that indicates a problem that affects the health of all Americans. Most doctors are burned out, the survey says. The researchers say that this burnout could be a major contributing factor to medical malpractice.

The survey polled 6,700 physicians about workplace burnout, the symptoms of which include fatigue, depression and thoughts of suicide. The poll also asked doctors about medical errors and workplace safety.

More than 10 percent of the physicians polled admitted to making at least one medical error in the three months prior to the survey. The researchers found that suffering from burnout made the doctors twice as likely to make a mistake.

The study’s lead author points out that burnout can happen in any profession, but it is particularly common in high-stress occupations like medicine. In addition to fatigue and depression, burnout at work can also lead to cynicism. All of these things can lead to lower job efficiency.

The study also examined the relationship between workplace safety and medical errors, finding that an unsafe work environment could triple or even quadruple the likelihood of medical mistakes from being made. However, burnout appeared to be a much bigger problem than workplace safety issues overall.

The conclusion of the researchers is that medical professionals should take better care of themselves. Suggestions include limiting work hours and decreasing paperwork while promoting more time spent with patients.

Medical mistakes can sometimes cause injuries that are not obvious right away. Since there are statutes of limitations that limit the amount of time a patient has to file a medical malpractice claim, the possibility exists that a person might not discover the problem until that time has run out. Due to this issue, many states have an exception called a discovery rule, which extends the statute of limitations in such cases.