Surgeon May Contemplate Suicide After Error

A study suggests medical errors, job burnout and depression lead surgeons to contemplate suicide at higher rates than the general public, and they’re much less likely to seek help.

Fear of losing their jobs contributes to surgeons’ reluctance to get mental health treatment, according to the study. Nearly 8,000 surgeons participated.

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Surgery is a physically and emotionally challenging occupation, and we’re thankful that someone chose that line of work when we need surgical care.  This study provides a timely reminder that we all need to treat one another with respect, even when we think a mistake has been made. 

Patient safety is a key concern in today’s complex healthcare setting, and part of that safety plan must be that healthcare workers have access to the resources they need, whether that’s appropriate equipment, or confidential mental health counseling.

Respectful Management of Serious Clinical Adverse Events – an IHI Perspective

You just heard at this morning’s CEO leadership meeting that a 40-year-old father of five children died in the Surgical ICU last night, hours after receiving medication intended for another patient. Everyone is upset. Questions are flying around the hospital: What does the family know? Who did it? What happened? What can we say? Would the patient have died anyway? (He was very sick.) Has anyone gone to the press?

Every day, clinical adverse events occur within our health care system, causing physical and psychological harm to one or more patients, their families, staff (including medical staff ), the community, and the organization. In the crisis that often emerges, what differentiates organizations, positively or negatively, is their culture of safety; the role of the board of trustees and executive leadership; advanced planning for such an event; the balanced prioritization of the needs of the patient, family, staff, and organization; and how actions immediately and over time bring empathy, support, resolution, learning, and improvement. The risks of not responding to these adverse events in a timely and effective manner are significant, and include loss of trust, absence of healing, no learning and improvement, the sending of mixed messages about what is really important to the organization, increased likelihood of regulatory action or lawsuits, and challenges by the media.

So opens Respectful Management of Serious Clincal Adverse Events, an Institute for Healthcare Improvement Series White Paper.

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Source:  Conway J, Federico F, Stewart K, Campbell M. Respectful Management of Serious Clinical Adverse Events.
IHI Innovation Series white paper. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2010.