The doctor (physician assistant, nurse, etc.) who makes the mistake needs help too.
From the British Medical Journal:
When I was a house officer another resident failed to identify the electrocardiographic signs of the pericardial tamponade that would rush the patient to the operating room late that night. The news spread rapidly, the case tried repeatedly before an incredulous jury of peers, who returned a summary judgment of incompetence. I was dismayed by the lack of sympathy and wondered secretly if I could have made the same mistake – and, like the hapless resident, become the second victim of the error.
Virtually every practitioner knows the sickening realisation of making a bad mistake.
You feel singled out and exposed – seized by the instinct to see if anyone has noticed. You agonise about what to do, whether to tell anyone, what to say. Later, the event replays itself over and over in your mind. You question your competence but fear being discovered. You know you should confess, but dread the prospect of potential punishment and of the patient’s anger. You may become overly attentive to the patient or family, lamenting the failure to do so earlier and, if you haven’t told them, wondering if they know.
Sadly, the kind of unconditional sympathy and support that are really needed are rarely forthcoming.
Can we change this wide-spread healthcare culture and offer support to caregivers involved in mistakes, process failures, and bad outcomes?
To borrow an oft-used phrase from Barack Obama – yes, we can!
One person, one committee, one hospital at a time.
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