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Burnout in doctors doubles chances of patient safety problems, study finds

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Doctors suffering from burnout are far more likely to be involved in incidents where patients’ safety is compromised, a global study has found.

Burned-out medics are also much more likely to consider quitting, regret choosing medicine as their career, be dissatisfied with their job and receive low satisfaction ratings from patients.

The findings, published in the BMJ, have raised fresh concern over the welfare and pressures on doctors in the NHS, given the extensive evidence that many are experiencing stress and exhaustion due to overwork.

A joint team of British and Greek researchers analysed 170 previous observational studies of the links between burnout among doctors, their career engagement and quality of patient care. Those papers were based on the views and experience of 239,246 doctors in countries including the US, UK and others in Africa, Asia and elsewhere globally.

They found that burned-out medics were twice as likely as their peers to have been involved in patient safety incidents, to show low levels of professionalism and to have been rated poorly by patients for the quality of the care they have provided.

Doctors aged 20 to 30 and those working in A&E or intensive care were most likely to have burnout. It was defined as comprising emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation – a “negative, callous” detachment from their job – and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment.

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Source: The Guardian, 14 September 2022

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