Long Hours Put Surgeons, Patients at Risk, Study
TUESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Surgeons who work long hours
can suffer burnout and depression, which can lead to patient safety
issues and increased risk of personal problems such as addiction
and suicide, a new study suggests.
Among surgeons who reported working more than 80 hours a week,
50 percent met the criteria for burnout and nearly 40 percent were
depressed, according to Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic researchers
who analyzed 2008 survey data from 7,905 U.S. surgeons.
In addition, 11 percent admitted making a significant medical
error in the previous three months, and 20 percent said they would
not become a surgeon again if they had the choice today.
The findings make clear that increasing hours and nights on call
results in surgeon distress, according to study author Dr. Charles
M. Balch, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School
"There's a strong correlation between workload and distress, which comes out in the personal and professional lives of surgeons," he said in a Hopkins news release.
However, placing limits on work hours was dismissed by
two-thirds of the surgeons in the survey, including those who
worked more than 80 hours a week or were on call more than three
nights a week. Those who were on salaries, however, were more
likely to favor work hour restrictions than those whose pay was
based entirely on billing.
The researchers don't advocate restrictions on work hours,
"While there is evidence that burnout can lead to problems, there is no evidence that reducing hours would make all doctors more satisfied or lead to better patient care," Balch said. "If hours were regulated, the reality is that people would have to punch time clocks, and I don't think surgeons necessarily want their workload monitored."
Instead, the focus should be on earlier identification of
surgeons at increased risk for burnout problems, he suggested.
The study appears in the November issue of the
Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario has more about
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