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Clinician burnout and medical errors

Why keeping yourself well will also benefit your patients

A whopping one in two senior doctors in New Zealand are experiencing high levels of burnout, according to an Association of Salaried Medical Specialists report released in April this year.

The report, which you can read in full on the ASMS website, also details that there has been no improvement in burnout levels amongst in the clinicians surveyed in the past five years.

Professionals in their 30s were the most likely to be affected by burnout, and women more likely than men. Specialists in radiation oncology were the most likely to be heavily burnt out, with those in respiratory and rural hospitality medicine not far behind.

It comes as no surprise to doctors: chronic workplace stress has been long entrenched as an occupational hazard.

Why does burnout matter?

The effects of long-term stress on your mental and emotional health are well-known. But what about the knock-on effects on your patients?

There are now a number of studies that draw a connection between doctor burnout and medical errors.

A 2018 Stanford University School of Medicine study found that around 55 percent of active physicians surveyed were experiencing burnout (in line with New Zealand’s findings). Ten percent of those doctors also reported that they had made at least one major medical error in the past three months.

Adjusting for specialty, work hours, fatigue, and work safety rating, the study found that burnt-out clinicians had more than twice the odds of self-reported medical error.

What can I do about it?

In the short term, one thing you can do for yourself is find comprehensive indemnity insurance that assures you cover.

Medicus is New Zealand’s only assured – rather than discretionary – professional indemnity insurance provider. Provided by leading insurance broker Aon and underwritten by NZI, Medicus’ services are designed for today’s changing medico-legal landscape.

Want to know more? Contact us.


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