Journal Article
Review

Potential consequences of patient complications for surgeon well-being: a systematic review.

Srinivasa S; Gurney J; Koea J.

As many as half of all clinicians may be involved in a serious adverse event during their career, and these events may have profound professional consequences. This systematic review examined the effect of patient complications on surgeons' well-being. Patient complications had significant adverse consequences for surgeons' emotional health, to which surgeons responded with coping mechanisms ranging from adaptive (discussing cases with colleagues or utilizing professional support) to maladaptive (alcohol or substance use). Studies reported varying perceptions of institutional support. Many surgeons derived benefit from the support of trusted mentors or senior colleagues after a serious patient complication, but lack of formal organizational support was commonly noted. Surgeons reported taking various corrective actions after a complication, such as personal development and system-level quality improvement efforts. The authors make several recommendations for helping surgeons after complications, including developing formal structures to aid surgeons in the coping process. Books by British neurosurgeon Dr. Henry Marsh and patient safety leader Dr. Atul Gawande explore the professional and personal consequences of adverse events in vivid detail.