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Doctors' working conditions in emergency care units in Germany: a real-time assessment
  1. Stefanie Mache1,2,3,
  2. Karin Vitzthum1,3,
  3. Burghard F Klapp2,
  4. David A Groneberg1,3
  1. 1Institute of Occupational Medicine, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University and Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
  2. 2Department of Medicine/Psychosomatics, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University and Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
  3. 3Institute of Occupational Medicine, Social Medicine and Environmental Medicine, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stefanie Mache, Institute of Occupational Medicine, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University Berlin and Humboldt-University Berlin, Thielallee 69–73, D-14195 Berlin, Germany; stefanie.mache{at}charite.de

Abstract

Background and objectives As interest in doctors' work in Germany has increased over the last few years, this study determines how doctors spend their work time in emergency departments. The study also provides information on patient load and working conditions in emergency units.

Methods and material An observational time-and-motion study was carried out at three emergency departments. A single investigator followed emergency doctors and recorded the time spent on various work activities. Job activities were classified into 12 different main categories, including direct or indirect patient care.

Results The data showed that doctors in emergency departments had to work overtime (M=09.17 h). They performed more than 80 tasks per day and were forced to handle multitasking situations. Indirect patient care and administrative duties were the main tasks doctors spent time on during the day. Direct patient care and contact represented only a small proportion of work time.

Conclusion Doctors working in emergency care units have to deal with highly unpredictable workloads and overtime work, and simultaneously should also care for patients and interact with a large number of different persons during each work shift. The findings of this study are useful in efforts to improve emergency medical care and doctors' working conditions.

  • Emergency care
  • patient load
  • job satisfaction
  • work strain
  • emergency care systems
  • ethics

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Free University of Berlin/Humboldt University of Berlin.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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