Local Attorneys. Real Results

Burnout among medical professionals puts patients at risk

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

In New York State, when it is believed there was a medical error and it caused illness, injury or death, the first thought among family members is to find hard facts as to what happened and why. It is frequently forgotten that there might have been other issues that contributed to the mistake. For example, if a person was given the wrong medication or was given too much of it and it led to an adverse outcome, this could have been due to a lapse on the part of the doctor or nurse. It may have been a simple mistake or there could have been other factors – like burnout – involved. When considering options after such an incident, it is important to weigh every potential catalyst from the start.

Patients in jeopardy because of burnout

In the healthcare industry, people can face overwork due to long hours. Not only is it a physical challenge, but it can be draining mentally and emotionally. Otherwise competent doctors, nurses and other medical professionals might make mistakes they would not normally make. The recent health situation has resulted in growing burnout. This was a problem even before early-2020 when the situation started. At that time, double the number of people working in healthcare experienced it compared to other industries. But it grew worse as the country was engulfed by the health issue. Although things are improving and society is getting back to some form of normalcy, it is continuing to hinder the relationship between medical professionals and patients. There have been strategies to try and reduce burnout. Still, around 30% of healthcare professionals say they thought about changing careers because of the emotional impact they experience, especially with the health crisis.

Burnout is not just an individual problem. It puts patients at significant risk. For nurses, there is a statistical increase in patients suffering infections and even mortality. Physicians who are feeling burnout have twice the chance of reporting that they have made a medical error. Surgeons with burnout may have worse medical mistakes than others as they are performing more delicate treatments that require closer attention to avoid wrong-site surgery, leaving equipment inside a patient and other blunders. Employers providing support can be helpful.

Nurses are particularly at risk for burnout and errors

Nurses tend to have more contact with patients than physicians do and if they are experiencing burnout, it may make the landscape even more treacherous. A recent study from the Ohio State University College of Nursing says that among nurses, those most vulnerable to burnout are critical care nurses. In a survey of 771 critical care nurses, they stated their stressors went beyond personal and into professional. They had depression, were anxious, did not feel they were supported on the job and had more self-reported medical mistakes. The pandemic resulted in nurses needing to work extra shifts in a high-stress atmosphere. Not only did it cause physical exhaustion, but it left them little time to regain their mental faculties and take time for themselves.

A full investigation can assess how medical malpractice came about

When there is a belief that a person suffered illness, injury or death because of medical malpractice, those who were affected should be aware of all the possible causes. It did not necessarily occur because of a lack of vigilance or a simple mistake. There could have been overwork and burnout involved. If a nurse or physician caused damage to a patient after working long hours without a break, this could be a fundamental part of a legal claim. With medical costs from an extended hospital stay, lost time at work and the aftermath of losing a loved one when it did not have to happen, it is imperative to have guidance. Regardless of the cause, it is essential that a full investigation be done and evidence gathered. Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and people who suspect their loved one was victimized should have guidance with how to proceed.