Stress can lead to two distinct types of attention problems with clinicians, says Curtis W. Reisinger, PhD, corporate director for the employee and family assistance program at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Manhasset, NY. Reisinger also is an assistant professor of psychiatry.

When under a great deal of stress, some people will focus intently on the one task viewed as primary, such as a surgeon who concentrates so much on the surgical activity that the bigger picture of the patient’s status is neglected, Reisinger explains. Others may go in the opposite direction and try to divide their attention among so many tasks that none receive adequate attention, he says.

Stress brought on by an abundance of tasks or an unforeseen problem during surgery interferes with the person’s problem-solving ability, Reisinger says. “When you have fatigue and burnout, your higher cognitive functions decrease,” he says. “At a certain point, your brain just doesn’t have the resources to do the best you could in a different circumstance.”

The use of physician extenders, such as scribes to enter notes in the medical record, can be helpful in reducing some of the stress of modern healthcare, he says. Most healthcare professionals will respond well to organizations trying to take meaningful steps to reduce stress.

“There may be some old-school types who insist that stress has always been part of this life and we should just keep going, but the newer generation tends to be very receptive to having down time to take care of themselves and to take care of colleagues who need the help,” Reisinger says.


• Curtis W. Reisinger, PhD, Corporate Director, Employee and Family Assistance Program, Physician’s Resource Network, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Zucker School of Medicine, Hofstra/Northwell, Manhasset, NY. Phone: (516) 876-7171. Email: