Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Burned out, depressed surgeons more likely to commit more major medical errors

Date:
November 23, 2009
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Summary:
Surgeons who are burned out or depressed are more likely to say they had recently committed a major error on the job, according to the largest study to date on physician burnout. The new findings suggest that the mental well-being of the surgeon is associated with a higher rate of self-reported medical errors, something that may undermine patient safety more than the fatigue that is often blamed for many of the medical mistakes.

Surgeons who are burned out or depressed are more likely to say they had recently committed a major error on the job, according to the largest study to date on physician burnout. The new findings suggest that the mental well-being of the surgeon is associated with a higher rate of self-reported medical errors, something that may undermine patient safety more than the fatigue that is often blamed for many of the medical mistakes.

Related Articles


Although surgeons do not appear more likely to make mistakes than physicians in other disciplines, surgical errors may have more severe consequences for patients due to the interventional nature of the work. Some estimate that as many as 10 percent of hospitalized patients are impacted by medical errors.

"People have talked about fatigue and long working hours, but our results indicate that the dominant contributors to self-reported medical errors are burnout and depression," said Charles M. Balch, M.D., a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the study's leaders. "All of us need to take this into account to a greater degree than in the past. Frankly, burnout and depression hadn't been on everybody's radar screen."

Nine percent of the 7,905 surgeons who responded to a June 2008 survey commissioned by the American College of Surgeons for a study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic reported having made a major medical mistake in the previous three months. Overall, 40 percent of the surgeons who responded to the survey said they were burned out.

Researchers asked a variety of questions, including queries that rated three elements of burnout -- emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment -- and others that screened for depression.

Each one-point increase on a scale that measured depersonalization -- a feeling of withdrawal or of treating patients as objects rather than as human beings -- was associated with an 11 percent increase in the likelihood of reporting an error. Each one-point increase on a scale measuring emotional exhaustion was associated with a 5 percent increase.

Mistakes also varied by specialty. Surgeons practicing obstetrics/gynecology and plastic surgery were much less likely to report errors than general surgeons.

Researchers acknowledged the limitations of self-reporting surveys, saying they couldn't tell from their research whether burnout and depression led to more medical errors or whether medical errors triggered burnout and depression among the surgeons who made the mistakes.

The results are being published online on November 23 in the Annals of Surgery and will be published in the printed journal in an upcoming issue.

Notably, the research shows that the number of nights on call per week and the number of hours worked were not associated with reported errors after controlling for other factors.

"The most important thing for those of us who work with other surgeons who do not appear well is to address it with them so that they can get the help they need," says Julie A. Freischlag, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and another of the study's authors.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shanafelt et al. Burnout and Career Satisfaction Among American Surgeons. Annals of Surgery, 2009; 250 (3): 463 DOI: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181ac4dfd

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Burned out, depressed surgeons more likely to commit more major medical errors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123094137.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (2009, November 23). Burned out, depressed surgeons more likely to commit more major medical errors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123094137.htm
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Burned out, depressed surgeons more likely to commit more major medical errors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091123094137.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Don't Fall For Flu Shot Myths

Don't Fall For Flu Shot Myths

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Misconceptions abound when it comes to your annual flu shot. Medical experts say most people older than 6 months should get the shot. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins