Depressed pediatric residents more likely to make harmful medical errors, study finds

Pediatric resident physicians who tested positive in depression screenings are three times more likely than those who tested negative to commit harmful medical errors, according to a study published in Academic Medicine.

Researchers conducted the study at seven pediatric academic medical centers in the United States and Canada from 2011 to 2013. They screened residents for burnout and depression using the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey and the Harvard Department of Psychiatry/National Depression Screening Day Scale.

They used a two-step process, involving surveillance by a research nurse and two physician reviewers, to measure and categorize errors.

Of 537 residents, 388 completed the depression screening surveys. Twenty percent screened positive for depression and 46 percent screened positive for burnout.

Physicians who screened positive for depression had a three-fold higher rate of harmful errors.

However, there was no statistically significant link between depression and total or nonharmful errors; or between burnout and harmful, nonharmful, or total errors.

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