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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

The emotional impact of medical errors on practicing physicians in the United States and Canada.

Waterman AD, Garbutt J, Hazel E, et al. Joint Commission journal on quality and patient safety. 2007;33:467-76.

This survey sought to evaluate the effects of medical errors on the emotional health of the physician involved in the error. The majority of more than 3000 physicians surveyed had been involved with a serious medical error resulting in patient harm. Physicians reported significant emotional distress as a result, including loss of confidence in their professional skills, insomnia, and decreased job satisfaction. Although prior studies have shown that physicians are generally satisfied with error disclosure, in this study, dissatisfaction with the process of error disclosure, as well as fear of being sued, was associated with greater emotional distress. Very few physicians felt adequately supported by their employer after the incident, a problem also documented in prior research.