Doctors Can Suffer Late-Day Fatigue Too

It’s been suggested that patients should avoid hospitalization in July when graduating medical students start their residencies. It’s also best not to plan a hospital stay during public holidays and to avoid Friday afternoon procedures when doctors and staff may be rushing to wrap things up for the weekend.  But a recent study has also suggested that the time of day is important to consider when scheduling medical appointments. 

Like everyone, doctors often experience a mid-to-late afternoon slump and according to the New York Times and research published in the JAMA Network Open, physicians can start to run behind at this time of day and suffer decision fatigue.  As the day progresses, doctors, like all professionals required to make many important decisions through the workday, may find their decision-making ability fades later in the day and they may resort to an automatic reaction rather than take the time to discuss all the options with patients.  

Studies have also found that doctors prescribed fewer unnecessary antibiotics early in the morning, and by the end of the day with fatigue setting in, more doctors will write a prescription to avoid confrontations with patients and find the easiest solution. Late-day fatigue may also affect patients who may be less likely to arrange for follow-up appointments when they are mentally drained. 

The solution?  Besides trying to schedule medical appointments early in the day, patients can help advocate for themselves by writing a list of questions or bringing a family member to help take notes and ensure instructions and explanations are fully understood.  Try to schedule follow-up appointments right away while they are fresh in the mind.  And a strong cup of coffee before appointments later in the afternoon might perk up both patient and doctor and help combat late-day fatigue. 

Learn more about becoming an effective patient self-advocate by following this link to a recent post in Psychology Today.