Unprofessional patient care stems from med school burnout

Stress and exhaustion don't just affect medical students' class work; it can cause problems with future patients. Burned-out medical students are more likely to cheat or be dishonest when it comes to patient care, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Such exhaustion is a pervasive problem among medical students, with more than half of the 4,400 students surveyed found to have burnout, said Mayo in a statement.

What's more, 43 percent of third- and fourth-year medical students admitted to unprofessional conduct, such as reporting a physical examination finding as normal when they had not performed the exam, reports the Pioneer Press.

Burnout also makes med students less likely want to provide medical care for the underserved, the study concluded. "Our findings suggest future physicians' altruism, professionalism, and commitment to serve society are eroded by burnout," said Liselotte Dyrbye, M.D., the study's author.

Conflict of interest is a big issue in the healthcare industry, yet only 14 percent of respondents had opinions about physician relationships with pharmaceutical companies that were consistent with American Medical Association guidelines, the study found. In fact, 22 percent of respondents thought it was OK to accept $500 from an industry representative for spending 10 minutes to complete a survey, notes the Pioneer Press.

"As our nation reforms its healthcare system, it is essential that physicians advocate for patients, promote the public health, and reduce barriers to equitable healthcare," said Dyrbye. "Burnout appears to be a threat to this process," she said.

Researchers presume aspects of the academic process are promoting dishonesty, since students know the behavior is unprofessional, said Mayo. Therefore, the authors recommend medicals schools "do a better job teaching students about conflict of interest and appropriate relationships with industry."

For more:
- here's the Journal of the American Medical Association abstract
- read the Pioneer Press article
- read the article in Medical News Today
- check out the Medscape article (reg. req.)
- here's the Mayo press release