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Is Physician Overwork Becoming a Threat?

Working in healthcare, despite its nobility, often carries the burden of overwork, fatigue, and professional burnout, which can lead to serious consequences for medical staff and patients alike. Research and statistics clearly demonstrate that a tired physician poses not only a threat to their own health but also to the safety of patients.

“The Lancet” journal reports a frightening truth that even minor sleep deficiencies can dramatically affect the quality of physicians’ work. A doctor working a grueling 36-hour shift may make up to 460% more diagnostic errors compared to a colleague who had sufficient sleep. Furthermore, an experienced surgeon with only a few hours of sleep may have a 170% higher risk of committing a serious error during a medical procedure.

In Poland, the reality isn’t much better. A survey conducted by the portal indicates that the vast majority of doctors and nurses work significantly beyond the standard hours. Moreover, as revealed by the study, some of them engage in work for up to 18 hours a day, summing up to a staggering 126 hours per week.

The overwork of medical personnel not only jeopardizes their health and personal lives but also poses a real threat to patients. In Poland, where there are only 2.4 doctors and 5.1 nurses per 1000 inhabitants, the shortage of personnel becomes a significant public health problem. Not only are we far behind other European countries in terms of medical staff availability, but we also question the quality and safety of medical care we can expect.

The solution to this problem is not merely patching up the staffing gap but also the necessity of preventive measures and support for medical personnel. Training on self-care, stress management, healthy lifestyle, and adequate rest can help reduce the risk of fatigue and medical errors.

However, to effectively counteract the fatigue of doctors and nurses, broader actions are necessary. Educating new medical professionals, incentivizing work in the profession through flexible forms of employment, and being open to employees from abroad are just some of the possible solutions. Cooperation with other countries, such as Ukraine, can provide us with new, qualified specialists who can strengthen our healthcare system.

Combating physician fatigue is not just a matter of the well-being of medical staff but also the safety of each of us. Faced with challenges related to the growing demand for healthcare, we cannot afford to neglect this issue. Healthy, rested medical workers are the cornerstone of the efficient functioning of the healthcare system and the guarantee of patient safety.

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