Fatigue isn’t only factor in medical mistakes

 
By Michelle Anderson • Published: January 26th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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If your doctor just wrote you the wrong prescription, there may be more going on than the stereotypical physician who’s working too many hours and getting too little sleep.

Could be he’s worrying about making his car payment.

Or a child having trouble at school.

A new research study suggests that while much has been done to help curb doctor fatigue, stressed-out doctors may pose similar problems.

Things like family worries and financial problems also play a role in medical mistakes… mistakes that can be deadly to patients.

Nearly one-hundred-thousand people in the United States die each year due to preventable medical mistakes.

But changes to medical training meant to curb those mistakes have focused almost solely on doctor fatigue. And researchers say that needs to change.

The Mayo Clinic study tracked four-hundred-thirty internal medicine residents from 2005 through 2008, asking them to self-report serious medical errors. Researchers also asked about quality of life, fatigue and emotional well-being.

While they found a clear tie between fatigued doctors and mistakes, they also found a link between errors and doctors who felt depressed, burned out, or unhappy.

The researchers said improvements to medical training in recent years have helped end the tradition of working young residents to exhaustion.

But older doctors may be sleep-deprived for entirely different reasons. Or they might just be pushing themselves too hard.

So doctors, here’s a suggestion for you: Make sure you take some of the same advice you likely give many of your own patients… and get plenty of rest.