Overworked doctors are twice as likely to make medical mistakes that injure or kill their patients. With the rising demand for their services, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are often required to work long hours, juggle multiple tasks at a time, and see many different patients. Doctors who are overwhelmed by their workload are likely to take shortcuts or miss important details, which could lead to medical errors and negligence.
Long Hours and Burnout Create Dangerous Situations
Over-scheduling, near impossible workloads, and medical staff shortages can easily lead to doctor burnout and disastrous errors. For instance, errors are bound to occur when doctors are expected to work for more than 20 hours or when surgeons are expected to perform delicate procedures after excessively long shifts.
Burnout doctors are twice as likely to make diagnostic errors, use poor judgment, and make technical mistakes during medical procedures. Injuries and death can occur as a result of hospital-acquired infections, delayed treatment, improper anesthetic administration, missed or delayed diagnosis, medication overdose or underdose, surgical mistakes, inadequate monitoring after a procedure, failure to take proper precautions, and failure to act on tests results. The highest percentage of errors caused by physician burnout occurs among surgeons, radiologists, emergency room doctors, family doctors, neurologists, and urologists.
What to Do if an Overworked Doctor Makes a Medical Mistake
If a doctor who has been on an unreasonably excessive work schedule makes a mistake that leads to injury, illness, worsened condition, or death, it may be possible to file a medical malpractice claim to receive compensation for the losses sustained.
Doctors may be held liable for injuries if they ignore their superiors’ directives to rest or knowingly take double shifts. While these decisions may not always result in injuries or deaths, they can increase the likelihood that the doctor may make a serious medical mistake.
In many cases, however, administrators reduce staffing or fail to hire or contract with enough doctors. This often leads to a stressed physical and emotional state for the physicians who must work long hours and take on more patients to make up the difference. When doctors are forced to comply with harsh scheduling demands, liability for fatigue-induced mistakes may fall on the hospital.