Depressed Doctors More Likely to Make Deadly Mistakes
February 18, 2020
According to a study conducted by researchers at the Michigan Medical School and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, depressed and distressed doctors are more likely to make medical mistakes and endanger patient’s lives. With at least 250,000 individuals dying from preventable medical errors every year, the data shows how important the role of mental health is for healthcare workers tasked with providing lifesaving care.
Researchers took into account the results of eleven different studies in the meta-analysis. Nearly two-thirds of the total participants were residents or interns from different specialties – and each study asked participants to self-report making mistakes on the job. The researchers found a direct link between doctors who experience symptoms of depression and making medical errors. For healthcare professionals, depression can be one of the consequences of burnout, which is a deadly epidemic currently sweeping the country.
In order to get a new medical license or to renew an existing one, doctors have to answer questions about their emotional and mental health. This can lead to lower rates of treatment and counseling, which negatively impacts rates of depression and burnout throughout the industry. Vulnerable patients regularly become ill or are injured because of completely preventable errors, such as:
- Medication mistakes, like prescribing the wrong medication or one that the patient is allergic to,
- Inadequate follow-up after treatment,
- Errors in administering anesthesia,
- Hospital-acquired infections (from central lines or contaminated tools, etc.),
- Failure to act on test results, and:
- Misdiagnosing a condition
Despite the fact that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, sufficient improvements to save lives have yet to be made. Mental health and depressive symptoms in doctors must be addressed in order to start creating positive changes.
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there are certain risk factors that contribute to burnout. Burnout is usually defined by emotional exhaustion, a lost sense of personal accomplishment, and depersonalization (or the feeling of observing oneself from outside their own body). Luckily, there are ways to limit the challenges that physicians face that can lead to burnout and depression – and to compromising their patient’s safety. Here are just a few examples from the AMA of ways the healthcare industry can effectively reduce these preventable dangers:
- Optimizing teamwork to take some of the pressure off individual providers,
- Improving workflow to equalize schedules and the number of hours worked, and:
- Encouraging doctors who experience depression and/or burnout to seek formal medical care
People who need medical care should not have to worry about their lives being endangered by unacceptable mistakes. When a provider deviates from the accepted standard of care and it results in harm to a patient, it is considered medical malpractice. After becoming victims of medical negligence, some people decide to file a medical malpractice claim. To learn more about filing a medical malpractice claim, please contact a representative at our firm directly.
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