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Residents Who Make Bad Errors Suffer Severe Personal Pangs

Residents Who Make Bad Errors Suffer Severe Personal Pangs

ROCHESTER, Minn., Sept. 5 -- When medical residents make major errors, as about a third of them believe they do, their guilt and emotional suffering may require counseling to avoid burnout, according to Mayo investigators.

Personal distress, depression, and decreased empathy engendered by the mistakes were also associated with an increased likelihood of future errors, suggesting that perceived errors and distress may lead to self-perpetuating behavior, reported Colin West, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues, in the Sept. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Medical errors have received increased attention since 1999 when the Institute of Medicine reported that up to 100,000 U.S. patients die each year because of preventable adverse events. But little is known about the quality of life for residents who may make such errors, said Dr. West and colleagues.

A majority of the residents discussed their errors with colleagues, supervising faculty, or friends and family, but formal programs to provide additional support for physicians who make errors appear warranted, Dr. West said.

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