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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Wisdom through adversity: learning and growing in the wake of an error.

Plews-Ogan M, Owens JE, May NB. Patient education and counseling. 2013;91:236-42.

Clinicians who commit a medical error experience a wide range of emotional responses, including loss of confidence in their job performance, job dissatisfaction, and even overt depression and burnout. This qualitative study used in-depth interviews to explore the coping strategies that physicians used to deal with these emotions. Physicians experienced fundamental changes in both personal and professional relationships, describing themselves as having increased compassion, humility, and tolerance for uncertainty as a result of being involved in an error. Interestingly, few reported utilizing institutional resources to help with the recovery process, instead relying on informal support from colleagues. This study illustrates the second victim phenomenon that affects many clinicians who are involved in medical errors, which is explored in more detail in an AHRQ WebM&M interview.