Doctors have incredibly stressful jobs. Every day, they see patients and need to figure out what is wrong – if anything – and what the best course of action for treatment is. Needless to say, doing this day-in and day-out can lead to a high degree of burnout among physicians. And when this happens, the patients also suffer.

Depression, fatigue and burnout increase likelihood of mistakes

Mayo Clinic Proceedings recently published a study looking at the detrimental effect that fatigue, burnout and depression has on doctors and patients. The results were harrowing.

Of the more than 6,600 doctors included in the survey, more than half reported symptoms of burnout. Another 33 reported high levels of fatigue and another 6.5 percent even reported having thoughts of suicide, which is obviously a major marker for depression.

How these results correlate to patient safety is frightening to even think about. For example, if a doctor is tired, they are 38 percent more likely to make a medical error. If a doctor is showing signs of burnout, they are more than twice as likely to make a medical mistake.

These aren’t just odds either that we are talking about. These same doctors are reporting making actual mistakes that negatively impact their patients. In fact, of those more than 6,600 doctors, a little over 10 percent admitted to making a “major” medical mistake at some point in the three months leading up to the survey. Some of these “major” mistakes even lead to patient death.

How you can protect yourself

Something needs to change in the medical field. More health care systems and facilities need to make a priority out of improving the well-being and mental health of physicians. Some health care systems are starting to have “wellness officers” on staff that need to care for the physicians. Not all hospitals do and the patients are the ones paying the ultimate cost of physician burnout.

When it comes to your doctor’s level of happiness, job satisfaction or burnout – this is not something you can control. You should never feel like you need to be the perfect patient to make their job easier. Your health and well-being should always be your top concern. Doctors have to do their jobs.

If the unthinkable happens and your doctor makes a mistake – be it in diagnosing, surgery or treatment – take action and reach out to a lawyer. While the medical field is a stressful one, your health should be your top concern. Let a lawyer handle the legal aspect of what happened to you, so you can focus on your recovery.