Viewpoint: The less-discussed reason clinicians are quitting

Burnout, staffing shortages and violence against healthcare workers are often cited as key reasons healthcare workers are leaving their roles, but there is another significant factor at play, Gita Pensa, MD, wrote in a March 31 article for TIME.

"As a physician who coaches other doctors through the stress of malpractice litigation, I am keenly aware of a truth that has gone unspoken in public discussions about why healthcare workers are quitting," she wrote. "When there is an outcome that causes suffering and grief for patients and their families, we are not only crushed by these failures, but also become the faces of them."

Dr. Pensa, an emergency medicine physician, recounted a recent shift in which half of her hospital's emergency department beds were filled with patients with serious conditions who were waiting for an inpatient bed to become available. With no opening in the intensive care unit, the ED team was forced to provide minute-to-minute bedside care for these individuals, diverting their attention from other sick patients.

"A seasoned nurse whispered to me in a moment of overwhelm, 'I can't do this anymore. This isn't worth my license,'" Dr. Pensa wrote. 

Even though litigation against physicians is common, few openly discuss it, she said. And for many physicians, the accusation of malpractice can create a long cycle of shame and psychological distress. 

"All of this has always been part of our jobs, but the more we are tasked with the impossible, and blamed when unable to achieve it, the more keenly aware we are that every malpractice lawsuit needs a face, and that face will soon be ours," Dr. Pensa wrote.

Read the full article here.

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