June 28, 2022—Thousands of physicians, nurses and highly skilled medical professionals find their lives upended by claims of medical malpractice – often unfairly – and experience high levels of stress, including anxiety, depression, diminished thinking capacity and serious health problems. A new website, www.medmalstress.com, offers help.

Created by Gail Fiore, MA, MSW, whose firm has counseled hundreds of physicians, Medical Malpractice Stress Syndrome, or MMSS, affects highly skilled, high-performing professionals, who are accustomed to dealing with high levels of stress, and it often has so significant an impact it can impair their ability to function effectively, in their personal lives and professionally.

“These normally high functioning individuals, who are accustomed to dealing with high levels of stress in their professional lives, find themselves feeling isolated, under siege, defensive and experiencing significant impacts,” says Fiore, CEO of The Winning Focus. “The purpose of this new website is to help them recognize that they are not alone – in fact, they are experiencing a very common syndrome.”

According to recent research:

  • 51% of the physicians said in a survey that they had been named in a lawsuit at some point in their careers.
  • 24% said their interactions with patients changed after having been sued.
  • 95% of physicians involved in litigation said they became so stressed in the litigation process that they experience PTSD-like symptoms.

“Some of the best and brightest in their field, thrown into sea of legal issues, interviews, records requests, depositions, and uncertainty about the future, begin to think and act in ways that are counterproductive – for themselves as medical practitioners, in their personal lives, and as defendants in a lawsuit,” Fiore said.

The medmalstress.com website points to some common symptoms of MMSS, urges anyone experiencing them to seek help, and offers a productive path forward. It notes that, along with their feelings of anxiety and depression, those with MMSS are often having thoughts like:

  • Am I going to lose my license?
  • Will my reputation be destroyed? Will I ever be able to work in medicine again?
  • If I lose everything, will my spouse divorce me; will I lose my kids?
  • I don’t think I did anything wrong, but what if I’m still found to be at fault?
  • Did I miss something? Did I make a mistake? Was there something more I should have done?
  • My entire identity is now in question.
  • How do I get this case out of my head? I can’t focus on anything else.
  • I’m having difficulty focusing at work and relating to patients – how do I know who’s going to sue me next?

“Whatever the outcome of the pending litigation,” adds Fiore, “if they don’t address the MMSS, it could affect the way they function in the future, have long-term effects on their practices and their personal lives, and potentially result in additional malpractice claims.”

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