Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Doctors suffer after mistakes: survey


Patients are not the only ones harmed by medical errors, said a survey that found many doctors who make mistakes -- and even those who come close -- suffer stress, sleep problems and loss of confidence.

Job stress related to medical errors could make some doctors prone to depression, quitting or even making additional mistakes, underscoring the need for helping them cope, said Washington University psychologist Amy Waterman, the lead author of the study which was released on Wednesday.

Most doctors surveyed said they would have liked counseling or other help after making mistakes, but that hospitals and other healthcare organizations did not offer much assistance.

The survey involved 3,171 doctors in St Louis, Seattle and Canada who answered mailed or e-mailed questionnaires. A majority -- or 2,909 -- said they had been involved with a near miss and minor or serious medical error, which includes mistakes causing permanent or potentially life-threatening harm.

The results appear in next month's edition of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, published by an affiliate of the Joint Commission, a hospital regulatory group involved in efforts to reduce medical errors in the US.

Many of those efforts stem from an influential 1999 report that estimated that at least 44,000 Americans die each year from medical mistakes.

While the survey's scope was limited, the results echo smaller studies and likely apply to doctors elsewhere, the authors and experts not involved in the research said.

Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor who runs the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said even more doctors might be adversely affected in regions where reforms aimed at reducing medical errors have not taken hold.

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