Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

Patient Safety and Quality

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Depression and burnout are problems among pediatric residents

Sleep deprivation, lack of leisure time, and other stresses of resident training lead to depression and burnout among many medical residents. In fact, a new study finds these to be major problems among residents. It also found that residents with depression made significantly more medical errors than their nondepressed peers.

A team of researchers used questionnaires to examine the prevalence of depression and burnout among 123 residents in 3 pediatric residency programs at 3 children's hospitals. A total of 20 percent of participating residents met the criteria for depression and 74 percent met the criteria for burnout. Surveillance of medication errors per resident month yielded 45 errors made by residents. Residents with depression made 6.2 times as many medication errors per resident month as residents who were not depressed (1.55 vs. 0.25). Burnt out residents and non-burnt out residents made similar rates of errors per resident month (0.45 vs. 0.53). In addition, residents who were depressed or burnt out reported poorer health than peers who did not have these problems.

The findings indicate that mental health may be a more important contributor to patient safety than previously suspected. Nearly half of the depressed residents seemed unaware of their depression, despite being doctors, and only a small number were receiving treatment. These sobering findings warrant further investigation as well as regular screening and treatment efforts in medical training programs, suggest the researchers. Their study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13333).

See "Rates of medication errors among depressed and burnt out residents: Prospective cohort study," by Amy M. Fahrenkopf, M.D., M.P.H., Theodore C. Sectish, M.D., Laura K. Barger, Ph.D., and others, in the March 1, 2008, British Medical Journal 336(7642), pp. 488-491.

Return to Contents
Proceed to Next Article


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care