Are You At Risk? Consider This...

What places a doctor or healthcare professional in the crosshairs of
malpractice cases or some regulatory catastrophe?

It is not just a bad result from a case, or a controversial treatment approach to treatment. Often, and probably more often, it is some behavior of yours that becomes obvious to you after you are in trouble. And it is one that could have been prevented. We don't have a time machine, but we do have a lot of lessons learned by the profession that can save your future. And the curious thing is, that too often they just weren't taken seriously by the professionals involved.

Take, for example, the doctor's or nurse's health. No, not the patient, the healthcare professional. They get sick or overstressed. And it is surprising, even notorious, that because they are inside the healthcare system, they may not get the care they need. Perhaps they fit in a hallway consultation instead of a formal doctors visit. Or maybe their doctor is a friend or close colleague who assumes that if the problem were really affecting them, the professional would tell him clearly. But just as doctors don't make good patients, they often don't get good healthcare. Stressed and sick is a risky brew, when inside and outside forces overwhelm our ability to adapt and cope. Like hypothermia, it can creep up on you and blind you to signs you exhibit that you would recognize in someone else.

Here are some preventive steps to take.
1) Sit back every few months and ask if your interaction with patients and professionals has improved or weakened.
2) How do you feel about your health? If you're fighting to keep up with work or life, get your doctor to give a careful evaluation.
3) Get a second opinion. Go outside your circle of work to a good doctor with time to devote to you in the right field.
4) Be honest with yourself. If you have drifted into alcohol or other problems, get help before events force you into a corner.
5) Be proactive: as you become older or more stressed by more responsibility, invest in an outside evaluation of your medical status annually.

Stress and illness can affect your performance, your relationship to others, and their perception of you. Any one of these can set you up for malpractice and regulatory problems.

What physical illnesses can put you at risk for malpractice? Certainly anything that decreases your capability. But most dangerous are ones that are hard for the person having the illness to recognize.

Here are some common health problems that can sneak up on you. We first have to state that there is a large focus on drug and alcohol abuse, which are important problems. But here we are focusing on illnesses which are hard to self diagnose.

1) Cardiac illness can affect stamina, and perhaps judgment at times.
2) Sleep Apnea is becoming more widely recognized. With age excessive weight can exacerbate it, event when tolerated young. Large hiatal or esophageal hernias can cause it. We are trained to work around sleep, but you can reach a point where your are ignoring a substantive illness.
3) Mental Illness, can be exacerbated by stress and age. Early treatment is the best tool.
3) Organic Brain Illness ( e.g. hydrocephalus, tumor, stroke, atypical seizure disorder) These can catch you unawares.

The demands of patient care and clinical practice make us more susceptible to the toll an illness takes on us, not less. We were all selected and then trained to ignore our health for the cause of helping others. But your ability to do that depends on your health, so don't ignore your healthcare. And often, if you develop a health problem that leads to a malpractice or regulatory problem, the system will not make it easy to remedy the consequences. Better look out for yourself.