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Depressed Medical Trainees Make More Errors

Nearly three-quarters of residents in pediatrics met criteria for burnout

FRIDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Depression and burnout are common among trainees in pediatric residency programs, and depressed residents make six times as many medication errors compared to their non-depressed peers, according to an article published Feb. 7 in BMJ Online First.

Amy M. Fahrenkopf, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues assessed rates of depression and burnout, and correlation with medical errors among residents from three pediatric training programs. The Harvard national depression screening day scale and Maslach burnout inventory were used to assess depression and burnout, respectively.

Of the 123 responding residents, 20 percent met criteria for depression and 74 percent met criteria for burnout. Depressed residents made 6.2 times as many medication errors compared to non-depressed residents. Burnout did not appear to lead to increased rates of medical errors, with error rates of 0.45 per resident month among burnt out residents compared to 0.53 for non-burnt out residents.

The authors of an associated editorial caution that more data are needed to confirm the results of this small, short-term study. "Although the suggestion that medication errors may be linked to depression and burnout seems reasonable, [these results] are far from conclusive. Large, prospective and appropriately designed studies are needed to clarify the roles of individual factors involved in error generation," the editorialists write.

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