According to a new French study, medical errors not only profoundly affect patients, but the doctors and medical staff who made the error. “If the error affects the patient and his/her family, it will also have an impact on the caregivers involved, their colleagues, and even the entire service,” Alexandra Laurent, head of Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology conferences at the Universite de France-Comte and one of the authors of the study, told MedicalResearch.com. Clearly, medical errors traumatize doctors.
The study was conducted at two intensive care units of teaching hospitals in France, and involved interviews with 40 employees to determine the psychological issues that arise following medical errors. The most common feelings associated with errors in the ICU are guilt and shame, followed by anxiety and fear for the patient. 20% of those interviewed found themselves questioning their own professional competence, while 15% admitted to feeling anger toward their team as a whole. For the vast majority, 80% of those interviewed, the error remains fixed in their memories.
Most of those interviewed reported an increased vigilance while caring for future patients. However, more than half reported minimizing the error in future discussions with the affected patient. This culture begins at the top, and is most successful if senior managers help to create a supportive working environment that encourages medical professionals to admit errors and learn from them.
You may read an interview about the study here.