Burnout in doctors doubles risk of patient safety incidents, new study finds

  • Date: 15 September 2022

PATIENT safety incidents are twice as likely to happen if a doctor is suffering from burnout, a new global study has found.

Exhausted doctors were more likely to have low job satisfaction and to consider quitting medicine entirely. They were also more likely to receive low satisfaction ratings from patients.

The study, published in the BMJ, was led by a joint team of British and Greek researchers who analysed data from 170 previous observational studies involving more than 239,000 doctors in countries across the world, including the US and UK.

They defined burnout as feelings of emotional exhaustion, a sense of detachment from the job, and feelings of incompetence or inadequate achievement and productivity at work.

The connection between burnout and patient safety incidents was found to be greatest amongst doctors aged 20 to 30 years, and in those working in emergency medicine.

Burnout and poorer job satisfaction was greatest in hospital settings for doctors aged 31-50 years, and working in emergency medicine and intensive care.

The study’s authors said the findings provided “compelling evidence” that physician burnout reduced the quality of patient care and had a damaging effect on the sustainability of services by contributing to increased staff turnover. They added that more must be done to tackle burnout across all strategies, but particularly in emergency medicine and for doctors in training.


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