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The Dangers of Physician Impairment

How to identify dangerous behavior and curb it.

Last month, a former doctor at an Arkansas Veterans Affairs hospital was indicted on multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter after three patients who he misdiagnosed died of cancer. According to NBC News, he was accused of being intoxicated at work.

As seen in the tragic example above, when substance abuse interferes with a physician’s ability to undertake professional activities competently and safely, it risks becoming lethal. In Dr. Douglas Mossman’s article, “Physician impairment: When should you report?,” Mossman points out that physicians-in-training — including psychiatric residents — are at particularly high risk for developing stress-related problems, depression, and substance misuse.

Because substance abuse can be prompted by work-related stress, it is possible that these rates are higher in physicians-in-training due to longer hours and job uncertainty.

Even doctors established in their careers can fall prey to substance misuse. According to a 2001 report in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, approximately 8%-15% of physicians will be impaired by psychiatric illness or SUDs (Substance Use Disorder) at some point in their careers. Within the medical specialties, persons in anesthesiology and emergency medicine appear to be at the highest risk.

Of course, all physicians have the potential to face great burnout within the course of their careers. Take the example of an oncologist, whose branch of medicine deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. The field of neurology is also laden with stress with the prevalence of high-risk brain surgery. And those in pediatrics, where the loss of a child patient can be immensely traumatic, may be prone to depression and burnout.

In preventing physician impairment, perhaps the most important piece of advice that Mossman gives his physicians is to practice professional self-regulation while practicing medicine.

This means that physicians should take care to monitor their intake of alcohol and recognize problematic behaviors in addressing substance abuse. They should, moreover, be accountable for themselves.

Though physician impairment is a complex issue, Otorize provides a simple answer for accountability. When it comes to detecting cognitive impairment, Otorize lets you know when you’re in danger of risking malpractice because of alcohol, drugs, or any other mental-affecting substances.

As the first scientifically proven test to assess impairment regardless of substance, Otorize lets you test yourself and regulate your safety before you jump behind the wheel or operate sensitive equipment.

Try Otorize out at Google Play as a positive practice before practicing medicine!


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