Both distress and fatigue impact resident physician errors, study finds

Sep 22, 2009

Mayo Clinic researchers report that distress and fatigue among medical residents are independent contributors to self-perceived medical errors. The findings appear today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

VIDEO ALERT: Additional audio and video resources including excerpts from an interview with Dr. Colin West describing the research are available on the Mayo Clinic News Blog. password MC845.

"We looked at distress and together and found that both factors can lead to a significant risk of medical error," says Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic physician and lead author of the study. "Both fatigue and distress among medical residents represent a potential concern for patient safety."

Previous studies, including a 2006 JAMA article by the same authors, showed that burnout during the physician training process can lead to . Other studies have suggested resident fatigue also increases the risk of medical errors. Collectively, these studies informed the 2008 Institute of Medicine recommendations that resident work hours be controlled. This new study confirms the previous findings but shows that distress should be addressed as a factor independent of fatigue. Distress can include such factors as burnout, depression, financial issues, family concerns or other .

Mayo Clinic Internal Medicine residents were surveyed every three months between July 2003 and February 2009. Standardized survey tools were used to measure burnout, symptoms of depression, sleepiness and fatigue. At quarterly intervals, residents were also asked if they had made a major medical error in the last three months. Of the 430 eligible residents, 88 percent answered at least one survey. Overall, 39 percent of the respondents reported at least one self-perceived major medical error during the study period.

"While changes have been made to reduce fatigue and sleepiness during residency training, other changes may be necessary to more specifically address distress and burnout," says Tait Shanafelt, M.D., Mayo physician and senior author. The researchers say their findings may have implications beyond residency training and suggest that more attention to reducing non-fatigue-related among physicians may reduce errors and improve patient safety.

The authors note that the findings are somewhat limited by study size, by the fact the study was conducted at only one institution, and because the survey tool used for symptoms of depression may not allow definitive diagnosis of that condition. They recommend further research be conducted in larger, multi-institution populations to better identify the factors leading to medical errors.

Source: Mayo Clinic (news : web)

Explore further: Allergan to cut 1,500 employees in restructuring (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Patients often don't report pain

Feb 13, 2006

A Rochester, Minn., study finds more than 20 percent of people with chronic pain don't seek medical help, suggesting many have unmet pain care needs.

Study tackles labeling errors

Oct 06, 2008

With a long-held commitment to continuously improving the quality and safety of patient care, Mayo Clinic researchers are recommending a new technologically-advanced labeling system aimed at reducing specimen labeling errors ...

Recommended for you

Face transplants change lives, identity

1 hour ago

Patients are prepared to take significant risks in order to be considered for a face transplant, says Dr David Koppel, director of the largest craniofacial unit in the UK and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor ...

British Lords hold ten-hour debate on assisted dying

Jul 19, 2014

Members of Britain's unelected House of Lords spent almost ten hours on Friday discussing whether to legalise assisted dying, in an often emotional debate putting the question back on the agenda, if not on the statute books.

AbbVie, Shire agree on $55B combination

Jul 18, 2014

The drugmaker AbbVie has reached a deal worth roughly $55 billion to combine with British counterpart Shire and become the latest U.S. company to seek an overseas haven from tax rates back home.

User comments : 0