You might have heard already that surgeons who miss out on sleep make more mistakes in the operating room. Now the editors of Anesthesiology want you to know about another potential patient-safety pitfall: physician burnout.
The journal published two studies on medical-staff burnout on Tuesday.
In the first, a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine team administered an online survey to all the members of one perioperative unit -- that is, the doctors, nurses and other staff to tend to surgical patients before and after their operations. They found that physicians, and particularly residents (who usually carry larger workloads), were at higher risk of burnout than nurses and other personnel.
Another group, at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, focused on burnout among senior physicians -- chairs of academic anesthesiology departments. They found that about half of the anesthesiologists they surveyed -- 55 doctors in all -- met their criteria for "high burnout" or "moderately-high burnout."
While it is unclear whether physician burnout has a direct adverse effect on patient care -- do dissatisfied docs make more mistakes? -- it's almost certain that it makes doctors' lives unhappy, hurting patients in turn. Dr. Tait Shanafelt, a Mayo Clinic hematologist, wrote an editorial accompanying the studies, which reported that: