Burnout May Contribute to Incidents of Medical Malpractice in Virginia | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

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We’ve all had those moments – you feel tired, inattentive, and even annoyed. Basically, you’re feeling “burned out”. No matter where you work or what job you have, if you’ve had to work long hours and a grueling schedule, you can likely identify with the dread of heading back to work after the weekend, the lack of motivation at the end of a long day or the struggle to focus on the task at hand.




When “burnout” happens, work suffers. So, consider what could happen when burn out affects members of the medical profession. A recent survey of physicians gives us a glimpse at how pervasive burn out can be for doctors, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals.

The study on physician burnout involved surveying 7,288 physicians in 2011 using a questionnaire called the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). The questionnaire sought to assess physicians’ feelings of burnout—such as emotional exhaustion or losing enthusiasm for their work, feelings of cynicism or depersonalization; and a low sense of personal accomplishment. There were other questions about satisfaction with work-life balance, feelings of depression or suicide, and how long they worked each week.

Results of the study indicate cause for concern when it comes to physician burnout. Nearly 46 percent of physicians experienced at least one symptom of burnout. However, when broken down by specialty, that number changes – emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology and family medicine had the highest rates of burnout. Other specialties like pathology, dermatology, general pediatrics and preventive medicine had the lowest rates of burn out.

Unfortunately, for most patients, these numbers indicate that our first line of defense in healthcare—the primary care physicians—is suffering from the highest levels of burnout.

This information is significant because other studies have linked burnout with adverse effects on the work that physicians do. It negatively impacts quality of care and the likelihood of serious medical errors. 

In light of the data they collected, the research classified their findings as suggesting “a highly prevalent and systemic problem threatening the foundation of the U.S. medical care system.”

Burnout, in the organization’s estimation, is linked to their working environment and the healthcare delivery system. That means that policy makers and health care organization have their work cut out for them when it comes to addressing burnout.