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One in Seven Doctors Using Alcohol or Medications to Cope With Work-Related Stress

DoctorsStress, if extreme and experienced for long periods of time, can lead to burnout – for anyone. If it happens to a nurse, doctor, or other healthcare professional, patients could be at risk for death or serious injury. Sadly, more and more doctors are now using alcohol and other medications as a coping mechanism, and that can have grave consequences for the patients they treat. Learn how to determine if physician burnout may have been a factor in the death or injury of someone you know and love, and discover how an experienced attorney can help determine if you may be owed compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Prolonged Stress and Physician Burnout

Doctors rarely set out to cause harm. Instead, most start out with the best interest of their patients in mind. Sadly, the prolonged and extreme levels of stress that they experience, when paired with the changing administrative duties of physicians in an increasingly digital world, is causing physician burnout at an alarming rate. About half say they have experienced (or are currently experiencing) burnout to the point that it impacted their ability to practice medicine.

Physician Burnout Increase the Risk of a Medical Error

Stress, in general, can cause both physical and psychological symptoms, such as irritability and fatigue. In physicians and nurses, these symptoms can be accompanied by a lack of empathy or compassion, which can ultimately result in detachment from the patient and their well-being. Physicians and other healthcare professionals may also experience clouded judgment, difficulty concentrating or staying organized, and they could even mix up patient information. All these symptoms, as well as others commonly associated with physician burnout, can drive up a physician or nurse’s risk of a medical error.

When Drugs and Alcohol are Added to the Equation

Although most doctors and nurses use healthy coping methods, such as relaxation through yoga or gardening, studies now suggest that one in seven are medicating with alcohol, various medications, or illicit substances. Sadly, using such substances as a coping mechanism can easily lead to addiction, which could then result in the physician or nurse using such substances while on-call or on-duty. Should that occur, the risk of a grave medical error increases exponentially – and it is the victims and their families that pay.

Recognizing Burnout and Intoxication After a Medical Mistake

While burnout or intoxication in a physician or nurse may be obvious in some cases, it may be less detectable in others. Furthermore, there are healthcare professionals that you or your loved one may have had contact with but never formally met. An example might include an anesthesiologist that came to work intoxicated and then accidentally administered a medication that the patient had an allergy to. If the patient suffers injury or death, the anesthesiologist could be held accountable, both legally and financially.

To determine if burnout or intoxication may have been a factor in your medical malpractice case, or if you suspect that medical malpractice may have occurred, but you are not certain, contact Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, LLP. Our San Jose medical malpractice lawyers can analyze your situation, explain your options, and aggressively represent you in your case. Schedule your free and personalized consultation to get started. Call (408) 289-1417 today.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.