Coping with medical errors

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Intravenous literature: Sirriyeh, R., Lawton, R., Gardner, P. and Armitage, J. (2010) Coping with medical error: a systematic review of papers to assess the effects of involvement in medical errors on healthcare professionals’ psychological well-being. Quality and Safety in Health Care 2010;19(6), p.1-8.

Abstract:

Background – Previous research has established health professionals as secondary victims of medical error, with the identification of a range of emotional and psychological repercussions that may occur as a result of involvement in error.2 3 Due to the vast range of emotional and psychological outcomes, research to date has been inconsistent in the variables measured and tools used. Therefore, differing conclusions have been drawn as to the nature of the impact of error on professionals and the subsequent repercussions for their team, patients and healthcare institution. A systematic review was conducted.

Methods – Data sources were identified using database searches, with additional reference and hand searching. Eligibility criteria were applied to all studies identified, resulting in a total of 24 included studies. Quality assessment was conducted with the included studies using a tool that was developed as part of this research, but due to the limited number and diverse nature of studies, no exclusions were made on this basis.

Results – Review findings suggest that there is consistent evidence for the widespread impact of medical error on health professionals. Psychological repercussions may include negative states such as shame, self-doubt, anxiety and guilt. Despite much attention devoted to the assessment of negative outcomes, the potential for positive outcomes resulting from error also became apparent, with increased assertiveness, confidence and improved colleague relationships reported.

Conclusion – It is evident that involvement in a medical error can elicit a significant psychological response from the health professional involved. However, a lack of literature around coping and support, coupled with inconsistencies and weaknesses in methodology, may need be addressed in future work.

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