Medical error involvement linked to burnout among physician mothers

Female physicians who have kids may be more likely to experience job burnout after reporting involvement in a medical mistake or adverse event, a study published in in BMJ Quality & Safety found.  

The study focuses on the "second victim" experience of physician women — specifically physician mothers. The second victim effect is emotional distress experienced by providers involved in medical mistakes.

Among 5,700 female physicians from different specialties and practice settings who finished an online, anonymous survey, 49 percent reported involvement in a medical mistake during their career. This involvement was linked to higher reported burnout, the survey found.

More than 8 in 10 of these physicians reported feelings of guilt after a medical error, and 2.2 percent reported reducing their clinical workload, taking leave from work or leaving the healthcare field.

"Physician mothers involved in errors experience negative outcomes and may be at increased risk for burnout," the researchers concluded. "Additional research should focus on strategies to mitigate burnout associated with the second victim effect, particularly among women physicians and those with family responsibilities."

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