The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the psychological and emotional well-being of health care workers. This article summarizes the COVID-19-related psychological effects on healthcare workers and the detrimental impact on team effectiveness. The authors recommended actions to mitigate the effects of stress on team performance and patient outcomes and discuss how teams can recover and learn from the current crisis to prepare for future challenges.
Brommelsiek M, Said T, Gray M, et al. Am J Surg. 2021;221:980-986.
Silence in the operating room (OR) can have implications on surgical team function and patient safety. Through interviews with interprofessional surgical team members, the authors explored the influence of silence on team action in the OR and found that silence in the surgical environment – whether due to team cohesion or individual defiance – has implications for team functions.
Pelaccia T, Messman AM, Kline JA. Patient Edu Couns. 2020;103:1650-1656.
The hectic and complex environment of emergency care can reduce diagnostic safety. This article discusses clinical reasoning and decision-making strategies used by emergency medicine physicians, contributing factors to diagnostic errors occurring in emergency medicine (e.g., overconfidence, cognitive stress, anchoring bias), and strategies to reduce the risk of error. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving diagnostic delay in the emergency department.
This study explored the benefits of reflection on diagnostic errors among internal medicine physicians in Switzerland, and found that diagnostic accuracy increased significantly between the initial diagnosis and the final diagnosis reached after reflection, regardless of the type of reflection used.
Oliveira J. e Silva L, Vidor MV, Zarpellon de Araújo V, et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2020;95:1842-1844.
This article discusses the threat that the “flexibilization” of science has played during the COVID-19 pandemic, defined as the loosening of methodological standards leading to low-quality studies, and resulting in unreliable data and anecdotal evidence.
Gupta A, Quinn M, Saint S, et al. Diagnosis (Berl). 2021;8:167-175.
This article describes the use of a case-based simulation to explore how physicians reason, create differential diagnoses, and ultimately achieve a correct diagnosis. Participating physicians who achieved the correct diagnosis (herpes zoster) utilized systems-based or anatomic approaches, rather than focuses on life-threatening diagnoses alone, and employed debiasing strategies.
Drey N, Gould D, Purssell E, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:756-763.
This thematic analysis explored variations in the impact of hand hygiene interventions to prevent healthcare-associated infections. The analysis identified several directions for future research, including exploring ways to avoid the Hawthorne effect, embed the interventions into wider patient safety initiatives, and develop systematic approaches to implementation.
Wood LJ, Wiegmann DA. Int J Qual Health Care. 2020;32:438-444.
This article discusses the action hierarchy, which is a tool for generating corrective actions to improve safety and focuses on those recommendations relying less on human factors and more on systems change. The authors propose a multifaceted definition of ‘systems change’ and a rubric for determining the extent to which a corrective action addresses ‘systems change’ (‘systems change hierarchy’).
Russo S, Berg K, Davis J, et al. J Med Educ Curric Dev. 2020;7:238212052092899.
This study involving a survey of incoming interns found that nearly all medical interns believe that inadequate physical examination can lead to adverse events and that 45% have witnessed an adverse event due to inadequate examination. The authors propose a five-pronged intervention for improving physical examination training.
Unprofessional behavior can hinder patient safety and create a disruptive work environment. Encompassing both qualitative and quantitative literature, this systematic review explored predictors and triggers of incivility in medical teams (defined as disrespectful behaviors but whose intent to harm is ambiguous). The review identified a wide range of triggers of incivility. Studies generally found that incivility occurs mainly within professional disciplines rather than across disciplines (e.g., physician to nurse) and surgery was the most commonly cited uncivil specialty. Situational and cultural triggers for incivility included excessive workload, communication issues, patient safety concerns, lack or support, and poor leadership.
Härkänen M, Turunen H, Vehviläinen-Julkunen K. J Patient Saf. 2020;16.
This study compared medication errors detected using incident reports, the Global Trigger Tool method, and direct observations of patient records. Incident reports and the Global Trigger Tool more commonly identified medication errors likely to cause harm. Omission errors were commonly identified by all three methods, but identification of other errors varied. For example, incident reports most commonly identified wrong dose and wrong time errors. The contributing factors also varied by method, but in general, communication issues and human factors were the most common contributors.
Arnetz JE, Neufcourt L, Sudan S, et al. J Nurs Care Qual. 2020;35:206-212.
Based on survey responses from nurses at one large US hospital, this study examined the association between nurse-reported bullying and nurse-sensitive patient outcomes (patient falls, central-line-associated blood stream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, and ventilator-associated events). The researchers found that nurse-reported bullying was significantly associated with the incidence of central-line-associated blood stream infections. Addressing nurse bullying at work may reduce certain adverse events.
Fortman E, Hettinger AZ, Howe JL, et al. J Am Med Inform Asso. 2020.
Physicians from different health systems using two computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems participated in simulated patient scenarios using eye movement recordings to determine whether the physician looked at patient-identifying information when placing orders. The rate of patient identification overall was 62%, but the rate varied by CPOE system. An expert panel identified three potential reasons for this variation – visual clutter and information density, the number of charts open at any given time, and the importance placed on patient identification verification by institutions.
Giardina TD, Royse KE, Khanna A, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2020;46:282-290.
This study analyzed self-reported adverse events captured on a national online questionnaire to determine the association between patient-reported contributory factors and patient-reported physical, emotional or financial harm. Contributory factors identified in the analysis focused on issues with health care personnel communication, fatigue, or response (e.g., doctor was slow to arrive, nurse was slow to respond to call button). These patient-reported contributory factors increased the likelihood of reporting any type of harm.
Plint AC, Stang A, Newton AS, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:216-227.
This article describes emergency department (ED)-related adverse events in pediatric patients presenting to the ED at a pediatric hospital in Canada over a one-year period. Among 1,319 patients at 3-months follow-up, 33 patients (2.5%) reported an adverse event related to their ED care. The majority of these events (88%) were preventable. Most of the events involved diagnostic (45.5%) or management issues (51.5%) and resulted in symptoms lasting more than one day (72.7%).
Isbell LM, Boudreaux ED, Chimowitz H, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:815–825.
Research has suggested that health care providers’ emotions may impact patient safety. These authors conducted 86 semi-structured interviews with emergency department (ED) nurses and physicians to better understand their emotional triggers, beliefs about emotional influences on patient safety, and emotional management strategies. Patients often triggered both positive and negative emotions; hospital- or systems-level factors primarily triggered negative emotions. Providers were aware that negative emotions can adversely impact clinical decision-making and place patients at risk; future research should explore whether emotional regulation strategies can mitigate these safety risks.
Mamede S, de Carvalho-Filho MA, de Faria RMD, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:550-559.
There is uncertainty about the effectiveness of cognitive debiasing in reducing bias that can contribute to diagnostic error. Instead of focusing on the process of reasoning, this study examined whether an intervention directed at refining knowledge of a cluster of related disease can ‘immunize’ physicians against bias. Ninety-one internal medicine residents in Brazil were randomized to one of two sets of vignettes (reflecting diseases associated with either chronic diarrhea or jaundice) and compared/contrasted alternative diagnoses. After residents encountered one case of a disease, non-immunized residents twice as likely to give that incorrect diagnosis to a different (but similar) disease, resulting in a 40% decrease in diagnostic accuracy between immunized and non-immunized physicians.
Much of the evidence about preventable harm in patients with psychiatric illnesses is limited to inpatient psychiatric facilities. This case-control study explores patient-related factors that place patients at an increased risk for patient safety incidents in primary or emergency care. While differences in income, education, and foreign background had some association with preventable harm, researchers found that psychiatric illness nearly doubled the risk of preventable harm among both emergency and primary care patients, with nearly half (46%) of harm attributable to diagnostic errors.
Isbell LM, Tager J, Beals K, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2020;29:803-814.
Providers’emotional state can affect clinical decision-making and patient safety. In this study, ED nurses and physicians recalled three patient experiences (an angry encounter, a positive encounter and a mental health encounter) and rated their emotions and engagement in the encounters and their perception of how their emotions impacted their decisions and behavior. Perceived patient safety risks were higher during angry and mental health encounters positive encounters were associated with perceptions of higher quality care. These findings highlight the importance of educating clinicians about emotional influences and how to manage them as well as the need for research to explore evidence-based interventions to mitigate emotion-induced patient safety risks.
Appelbaum N, Clarke J, Feather C, et al. BMJ Open. 2019;9:e032686.
While medication errors during paediatric resuscitation are considered common, little information about the processes that contribute to them has been gathered. This prospective observational study in a large English teaching hospital describes the incidence, nature and severity of medication errors made by 15 teams, each comprised of two doctors and two nurses, during simulated paediatric resuscitations. Clinically significant errors were made in 11 of the 15 cases, most due to discrepancies in drug ordering, preparation and administration. The authors recommend additional research into new approaches to protecting patients in paediatric emergency settings.
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