If burnout endangers doctors and patients
The burnout syndrome threatens medical care quality. As a matter of fact, cases of “emotional and physical exhaustion” among doctors increase all over the world (it is estimated 30% of white coats over 50 years), because they are demoralized by the amount of work, a more and more cumbersome bureaucracy and legal concerns.
White coats suffer from losses of attention and focus always more frequently; therefore, they are protagonists (and victims at the same time) of mistakes. As a result, the strong work-related stress induces them drugs and alcohol use in several cases: in Italy there are about 5 thousand white coats doing it; in the EU context, the figure increase to about 40 million, that is 22% of the population. This is the picture of the Italian doctors’ conditions made by Beniamino Palmieri, professor of surgery at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and project coordinator of “Doctor take care of yourself”. The finger is pointed against precariousness, doctors’ advanced age, turnover rate: all these factors contribute to chaos and confusion in hospitals. And difficulties redoubled in large cities such as Rome, London or Paris, which deal with “chronic emergencies” every day.
But what takes a huge loss is also the relationship between doctors and patients. Scientific studies showed that a stressed doctor is not only less friendly, but he makes mistakes easier, even fatal. Of course it is an international problem that crosses Italian borders, although in other countries there seems to be more attention to this phenomenon. For the president of Fnomceo (Italian Federation of medical Associations), Amedeo Bianco, «doctors’ job has great responsibilities and it is subject to high stress. In the US – he adds – medical profession is considered as at high social risk», whereas «in our country, unfortunately, little is being done in this field. We should start detecting the phenomenon, for example by establishing an observatory ad hoc. I mean – Fnomceo president concludes – in order to tackle the problem, we need active counter-policies».