Towards constructive change after making a medical error: Recovery from Situations of Error Theory as a psychosocial model for clinician recovery

Reema Harrison, Judith Johnson, Ryan D. McMullan, Maha Pervaz Iqbal, Upma Chitkara, Steven Mears, Jo Shapiro, Rebecca Lawton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Making a medical error is a uniquely challenging psychosocial experience for clinicians. Feelings of personal responsibility, coupled with distress regarding potential or actual patient harm resulting from a mistake, create a dual burden. Over the past 20 years, experiential accounts of making an error have provided evidence of the associated distress and impacts. However, theory-based psychosocial support interventions to improve both individual outcomes for the involved clinicians and system-level outcomes, such as patient safety and workforce retention, are lacking. There is a need for evidence-based ways to both structure and evaluate interventions to decrease the distress of making a medical error and its impacts. Such interventions play a role within wider programs of health professional support. We sought to address this by developing a testable, psychosocial model of clinician recovery after error based on recent evidence.

Methods: Systematic review methodology was used to identify studies published between January 2010 and June 2021 reporting experiences of direct involvement in medical errors and/or subsequent recovery. A narrative synthesis was produced from the resulting articles and used as the basis for a team-based qualitative approach to model building.

Results: We identified 25 studies eligible for inclusion, reporting evidence primarily from experiences of doctors and nurses. The identified evidence indicates that coping approach, conversations (whether they occur and whether they are perceived to be helpful or unhelpful), and learning or development activities (helpful, unhelpful or absent) may influence the relationship between making an error and both individual clinician outcomes of emotional impact and resultant practice change. Our findings led to the development of the Recovery from Situations of Error Theory model, which provides a preliminary theoretical basis for intervention development and testing.

Conclusions: The Recovery from Situations of Error Theory model is the first testable psychosocial model of clinician recovery after making a medical error. Applying this model provides a basis to both structure and evaluate interventions to decrease the distress of making a medical error and its impacts and to support the replication of interventions that work across services and health systems toward constructive change. Such interventions may be embedded into the growing body of peer support and employee support programs internationally that address a diverse range of stressful workplace experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-604
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Volume18
Issue number6
Early online date25 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • medical error
  • adverse events
  • clinician well-being
  • recovery
  • patient safety

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