Almost 9% of surgeons responding to an American College of Surgeons survey said they had committed a major medical error recently, with more than 70% of those blaming themselves rather than the system they operate in, and researchers concluded that there is a statistically significant connection between self-reported errors and a surgeon's state of mind.
Physicians blame themselves for major medical errors: survey
In a report posted on the Web site of the Annals of Surgery (a journal published by a division of Wolters Kluwer Health), researchers with Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic and Winchester (Va.) Surgical Clinic found that reporting a major medical error was associated with a 7-point increase on a common measurement for emotional exhaustion and roughly a doubling in the risk for screening positive for depression. These surgeons were also less likely to report—if given the choice—that they would become a doctor or surgeon again, and were less likely to recommend such a career path for their children.
Of the 7,905 surgeons responding to the 61-question survey e-mailed in June 2008 for a study commissioned by the ACS, 700 (8.9%) reported having made a major medical error in the past three months. The most common reasons for the error included: Lapse in judgment, 31.8%; system issue, 15.1%; stress or burnout, 13%; lapse in concentration, 13%; fatigue, 6.9%; and lack of knowledge 4.5%. Another 15.7% cited various other reasons.
Most of the surgeons surveyed worked between 50 and 80 hours a week, with the biggest group reporting that they worked 60 to 69 hours (2,549; 32.6%). Although surgeons reporting errors worked slightly more hours (63.5 compared to 58.9) and spent an additional hour in the operating room (18.2 hours compared to 17.1), the researchers concluded that burnout and depression were more closely linked to medical errors than the number of nights on call per week, practice setting, method of compensation and total number of hours worked.
The survey, which was sent 24,922 of the ACS' 77,000 members, went to those who had an e-mail address on file with the ACS and had permitted their e-mail to be used for correspondence.
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