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Long Hours For Surgeons Lead to Burn-Out And Medical Errors

We have posted frequently on this blog regarding emerging evidence that long hours for new resident doctors leads to a drastic increase in preventable medical mistakes. The growing research on the topic has actually led the governing body which oversees medical education programs to institute changes in its guidelines. New doctors now must perform less total work a week and have more down time to ensure that patient care does not suffer because of fatigue.

New research summarized in the Baltimore Sun indicates that similar changes might be worthwhile for all doctors-not just new residents. A study out of Johns Hopkins-Mayo Clinic in the Journal of the American College of surgeons reveals that multiple nights on call and long total hours may have negative effects on patient safety (as well as the surgeon’s personal well-being).

The research included information from nearly 8,000 surgeons, many of whom worked over 80 hours a week. Eleven percent of those overworked individuals admitted to making a significant medical error in the last three months alone-many more unreported problems are likely to have also occurred.

One of the study’s lead authors summarized, “There is a strong correlation between workload and distress, which comes out in the personal and professional lives of surgeons.”

Of course news like this is of concern to our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti who often work with patients who have fallen victim to surgical error. The consequences of these losses are far too high for risks to be taken by tired, over-worked, distressed surgeons. It is imperative that our specialized doctors be at their peak performance anytime that are working on patients at their most vulnerable moments.