A new study conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers finds that doctors suffer from more work-home conflicts and that these clashes increase their risk of burnout.
Physician health is a major part of the patient safety equation, although it is also a much neglected one. When the people who care for patients are in the best mental and physical health, they can do a much better job of reducing the risk of medical errors and keep patients safer. However, when those same doctors are battling feelings of depression, sleeplessness, fatigue, lack of motivation and all the other symptoms that are associated with burnout, patient safety may be severely impaired. Stressed doctors may not be able to give 100% to their profession.
The research has some very worrying findings. It finds that because of long work hours, and the kind of dedication that is expected from a doctor, physicians are likely to suffer from a high amount of work-home conflicts.
The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, was based on over 7,000 doctors and 800 partners of these doctors. The respondents completed a survey in which they were asked about their working hours, burnout symptoms, symptoms of depression, success in work-life balance, as well as suicidal thoughts.
The results found that doctors who experienced work-home conflicts in the previous three weeks prior to the survey, suffered more symptoms of burnout. They were also much more likely to experiment with thoughts of divorce compared to doctors who did not report conflict and turmoil in their lives.
Besides long work hours, and the kind of dedication that doctors are expected to display as part of their job, there are other reasons why doctors may suffer from higher levels of burnout. For instance, the study finds that doctors were also more likely to put their work first, compared to their partners. Interestingly enough, three-quarters of the doctors in the survey were male, while 70% of the partners were female.
Younger doctors, doctors in academic hospitals, and female doctors, seemed to have much higher work-home conflicts and difficulty maintaining a work-life balance, compared to others. The fact that female doctors seem to be at a much higher risk for work-home conflicts seems to confirm the need for more work to help dispel commonly held beliefs about women’s role in the workforce and at home.
The researchers also suggest measures that reduce the risk of such burnout levels, like increasing family-friendly policies that encourage doctors to work on improving their work-life balance. Such policies have been adopted very successfully in other institutions, and hospitals must do so too, because burnout levels do lead to loss of valuable personnel.
The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons who have been injured as a result of medical negligence across Indiana.