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Physician Well-Being Equals Patient Well-Being

We’ve all been there. You’re so tired and burned out from a day’s work that you all you can think about is making to the end of the day so you can go home and finally relax. Perhaps you’ve even noticed that your work quality tends to slip once you reach this point. Well, doctors are no different. They put in many hours for their profession, and there is no doubt that they too, suffer from burnout and fatigue.

Studies show that doctors who suffer from fatigue and burnout are more likely to make errors in their work.[1] Based on surveys given to doctors, the study found that for every point increase in a doctor’s fatigue score, he or she was 14% more likely to commit a medical error.[2] Further, for every point increase in a doctor’s sleepiness score, he or she was 10% more likely to commit a medical error.[3]

This can be likened to the controversy a few years ago about pilot fatigue. The gist behind that ordeal was that tired pilots can be dangerous. The same can be said for doctors. Many times, they help us co-pilot our body, and keep it going in the right direction. If they suffer from fatigue and burnout, they are more likely to commit errors that can be very costly.

The services that doctors provide to us are invaluable. Just like many people, when they are at their peak, you could not ask for better service. However, if the next time you are in to see the doctor, you see dark circles under his/her eyes, you might want to wait until they have had a nap. Better yet, go see them after a long vacation.

[1] “Tired, Stressed Docs Make More Mistakes, Study Finds,” available at: (accessed September 24, 2009).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Mike Bryant

    The intern/resident studies and the long hours are scary. What do you do better with less sleep? Very helpful and life saving information.

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