A study published just this month by researchers at Stanford University captures how doctors struggle with both mental and physcial fatigue and how this may impact their ability to render timely diagnoses.
Researchers interviewed nearly 6,700 physicians for their study. At least 50 percent of them admitted to experiencing a wide range of burnout symptoms ranging from suicidal thoughts to profound fatigue.
At least 10 percent of all doctors interviewed admitted to having either prescribed the wrong medication or administered the wrong dosage to patients. Another 10 percent misdiagnosed patients or made medical errors. Researchers ultimately determined that doctors who suffered from burnout had twice the likelihood of making mistakes than their well-rested counterparts.
The researchers found that many medical residents or physicians working in critical care units experience burnout because they are often forced to work long hours with too little sleep or too few breaks. Others have their energy and mental health eroded as they're forced to focus less on the practice of medicine and more on entering patient data into computer systems or ordering pre-authorizations for treatments.
Researchers acknowledged that hospitals and medical systems that encourage their doctors to engage in mindfulness exercises have been mostly successful in curbing physician burnout. It's unclear how many medical care centers are encouraging this strategy, however.
While medical misdiagnoses may occur because doctor's are overworked or tired, they can also happen because of physician inexperience or because doctors fail to ask the proper questions to make correct diagnoses. Proving that your doctor is responsible for a decline in your health is complex and requires experience and diligence to present a winnable case.