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How work stress could lead to a preventable surgical error

On Behalf of | May 1, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Mistakes that occur during surgery often top the list of the most catastrophic and preventable medical errors each year. Surgeons can sometimes make mistakes including performing the wrong procedure on a patient, operating on the wrong part of the body or leaving items behind in the patient.

Those mistakes are so severe that medical professionals generally agree they should never happen. Despite that consensus, dozens of people every week suffer preventable negative outcomes after routine surgeries. Oftentimes, the issue leading to those mistakes is not a lack of proper training or a failure by hospitals to establish appropriate protocols for patient safety. Instead, the underlying issue has to do with professional burnout. Surgeons know what they should do, but they fail in their duties because of their mental state.

Workplace stress can overwhelm surgeons

Surgeons essentially have a job where they need to be absolutely perfect. The degree of precision necessary to perform an operation requires intense focus and physical control. Surgeons may spend an hour or longer working on each individual patient that they see.

Unfortunately, modern hospitals and corporate medical practices often demand that surgeons see more patients than they can treat comfortably. They may have to perform back-to-back procedures, leaving them exhausted. They may also find managing the relationships with support staff exhausting. Almost half of all surgeons reviewed in a recent study reported concerning symptoms of burnout.

The more burned out a surgeon becomes due to the unforgiving nature of their career, the more likely they are to dehumanize their patients and to make medically-questionable choices in the operating theater. Surgical burnout is a known safety issue that professional organizations and medical employers need to better address for the safety of patients. For the time being, patients are often the ones who suffer when a surgeon gets pushed too far by the terms of their employment.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit after a major surgical mistake can serve as a powerful wake-up call to a corporate hospital causing surgeons to burn out with aggressive demands. Patients and surviving family members of those who die can also secure compensation for the provable financial harm caused by a surgical mistake if they take legal action.