Is your doctor depressed or burned out? Are they in a troubled marriage or relationship? Are they getting enough sleep and exercise? You likely don’t know any of these things — even if you’ve been seeing them for years.
However, if your doctor isn’t taking the necessary steps to care for their own mental health, they’re more likely to make a mistake that could hurt you. That’s a key finding of a recent report published on the JAMA Network website. The report looked at 11 different studies that found that physicians with depressive symptoms made more medical errors — by their own admission — than those not diagnosed with these symptoms. The studies looked at a total of over 21,000 doctors.
Preventable medical errors are no small problem. The report states that possibly as many as a quarter of a million people or more die in hospitals alone from these errors annually. As the report’s authors note, hospital and public health officials should work to ensure that there are processes in place to spot depressive symptoms in physicians and intervene to assist them.
There’s no one type of depression, and different kinds call for different treatments. However, self-care is essential for all doctors. That’s typically much easier for a doctor in an established practice than for a first-year resident. However, getting enough quality sleep, eating nutritious food and remembering to get some type of exercise every day can help those experiencing anxiety, burnout and/or depression.
Toxic relationships can worsen depression and other mental health issues. So can our relationship with ourselves. Doctors absorb a lot of anger and sadness from patients and their family members. Some — especially those in emergency rooms and psychiatric facilities — are victims of violence. It’s essential for doctors to work not to internalize all of that negativity and to have compassion for themselves.
Of course, most of us have no idea about the mental state of the doctors and other medical professionals whom we trust with our lives. However, if you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical error that you believe was preventable, it’s wise to talk with an experienced attorney to determine whether you have a viable malpractice case.