Keep residents happy -- it is better for patients

A study in BMJ showed that depressed pediatric residents made 6.2 times as many medication errors as residents who were not depressed. The setting was in 3 urban children’s hospitals in the United States, 20% of the participating residents met the criteria for depression and 74% met the criteria for burnout. Burnout did not correlate with an increased rate of medical errors.

According to Newsweek, every year, between 300 and 400 doctors take their own lives—roughly one a day. No other profession has a higher suicide rate.

I have always suspected that happier doctors make for happier patients and a few years ago came up with a mnemonic for a set of well-being practices correlated with the feeling of happiness -- MOTORS -- because the pursuit of happiness, in its altruistic sense, can be the motor of your life.

MOTORS” stands for:

Meaning --> find a meaning in what you do for a living but don't forget to set limits around it
Outlook --> have a positive outlook on life, be philosophical but also focused on success
Time --> spend quality time with F&F (Family & Friends)
Out of yuppie values --> don't focus on chasing money or prestige
Religious / spiritual practices
Self care practices, like sports or meditation

Rates of medication errors among depressed and burnt out residents: prospective cohort study. Amy M Fahrenkopf et al. BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.39469.763218.BE (published 7 February 2008)
Image source:

Physicians wellbeing - WJM theme issue, volume 174(1); January 2001.
Six Tips for Happiness by a Harvard Teacher. Clinical Cases and Images - Blog.
Why are doctors so unhappy? Edwin Leap.
Happiness. DB’s Medical Rants, 03/2008.
Doctors Who Kill Themselves. Newsweek, 04/2008.

Updated: 04/21/2008

1 comment:

  1. 6.2 time more errors, that's huge...