Over a third of both doctors and dentists suspect that emotional exhaustion has contributed to a clinical error, according to a Medical Protection Society (MPS) survey. MPS’s survey findings were revealed at its Ethics for All conference.
The survey of over 450 doctors and 147 dentists, found: 60% of doctors, and 61% of dentists, experience a decreasing sense of personal wellbeing; 37% of doctors suspect that emotional exhaustion has at some point contributed to an irreversible clinical error, with 60% saying this was related to a lack of concentration; 31% of dentists suspect that emotional exhaustion has at some point contributed to an irreversible clinical error, with 43% saying this was related to a lack of concentration; and 47% of doctors, and 44% of dentists, often or always start the working day feeling tired.
The findings follow short on the heels of a study that found that more than that 80% registrars at the University of the Witwatersrand‘s School of Clinical Medicine suffer from burnout, a response to prolonged stress, with “extremely high” levels of depersonalisation, affecting professional response to patients,
In a statement, the MPS said that as a leading medical protection organisation, it sees first-hand the consequences of when things have gone too far, and when its members can no longer cope – potentially leading to complaints or a negligence claim, leaving clinicians even more vulnerable to burnout.
To support healthcare professionals MPS will be launching a burnout workshop across South Africa in 2020 for both doctors and dentists.
Dr Graham Howarth, head of medical services, South Africa said: “The increasing levels of burnout I hear of from colleagues is particularly worrying. When doctors feel burnt out it is not only concerning for them but for patients and the wider team. Doctors who are happy and engaged will find it easier to be compassionate and provide safer patient care.
“As a mutual organisation, it is vital that we listen to and care for members – part of the solution is introducing the burnout workshop across South Africa in 2020 for both doctors and dentists. However, we recognise more needs to be done, and we want to go further by using our international insight and experience to call for concrete solutions to help improve the work environment of doctors and dentists.”
Dr Alasdair McKelvie, head of dental services, South Africa said: “Dentists can spend so much time and energy worrying about their patients that their own wellbeing can often be put on the back burner, which over time could affect patient care. I am all too aware of the increasing levels of burnout dentists are facing – It is vital that action is taken to ensure that we do not let the environment we work in reduce the sense of value that we get from being a dentist.
“Our insight and international perspective allow for efforts to be directed towards practical solutions, such as rolling out our burnout workshop – but we must also work alongside other organisations and government to truly tackle the endemic problem of burnout in healthcare.”
The presentation on ‘Keeping doctors and dentists safe: The shared responsibility to prevent burnout among the profession’ was given by Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, MPS medico-legal consultant and education lead, at the Ethics for All event.
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