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Tired, Stressed Docs Make More Mistakes, Study Finds
Date:9/22/2009

Experts urge changes throughout medicine to reduce fatigue and distress

TUESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Fatigue isn't the only contributor to medical errors among medical residents. A new study finds that financial woes, family concerns and other elements of distress also play a major role in potentially fatal mistakes.

Fatigue and distress among doctors are known causes of medical errors, but Mayo Clinic researchers say that theirs is the first study to show how each contributes to mistakes. And they recommend that distress be considered independently of fatigue when new training guidelines are considered.

"Changes to the process of physician training should address both resident fatigue and distress to improve resident and patient safety as both factors independently increase the risk of self-reported major medical errors," said lead researcher Dr. Colin P. West, a internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Fatigue, along with lower quality of life, burnout, depressive symptoms and other signs of distress, independently led to increased rates of self-reported major medical errors among internal medicine residents, West said.

"In fact, common levels of fatigue and distress are associated with double or triple the risk of these errors," he said.

This is an important distinction, West said, because most current efforts to reform medical training that are intended to promote resident and patient safety have focused on fatigue.

"Our results support this, but suggest that specific attention to promoting resident well-being is needed as well," he said. "We don't know enough about effective ways to promote physician well-being, however, and further research is needed to answer this question."

The report is in the Sept. 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Medical mistakes are a serious issue. Nearly 100,000 people in the Un
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