Residents' Errors Cause Them Significant Distress

Perceived medical errors and resultant distress may be reciprocal

TUESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Self-perceived medical errors are common among internal medicine residents, can cause them significant personal distress and decreased empathy, and can lead to more self-perceived errors and distress in the future, according to a report in the Sept. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Colin P. West, M.D., Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues analyzed survey data provided by 184 residents who began their training during the 2003 through 2006 academic years. The residents completed quarterly self-assessments of their perceived medical errors and linear analog scale quality-of-life assessments. Twice a year, they completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory, Interpersonal Reactivity Index and a validated depression tool.

During the overall study period, 34 percent of residents reported at least one major medical error, while during each quarter, a mean of 14.7 percent reported making an error. These errors were significantly associated with a subsequent decrease in quality of life and significantly worse measures in all areas of burnout (depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment). Those reporting such errors were also 3.29 times more likely to test positive for depression and those with increased burnout and reduced empathy had an increased odds of a self-perceived error in the following three months.

"Formal programs to provide additional support for physicians who make errors appear warranted," the authors write.

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