“Waking up the next morning”: surgeons’ emotional reactions to adverse events

Luu S, et al. Waking up the next morning: surgeons’ emotional reactions to adverse events. Med Educ. 2012 Dec;46(12):1179-88. Full-text for Emory users.

Results: Surgeons expressed feeling unique and alone in the depths of their reactions to adverse events and consistently described four phases of response, each containing cognitive and emotive components, following such events. The initial phase (the kick) involved feelings of failure (‘Am I good enough?’) experienced with a significant physiological response. This was shortly followed by a second phase (the fall), during which the surgeon experienced a sense of chaos and assessed the extent of his or her contribution to the event (‘Was it my fault?’). During the third phase (the recovery), the surgeon reflected on the adverse event (‘What can I learn?’) and experienced a sense of ‘moving on’. In the fourth phase (the long-term impact), the surgeon experienced the prolonged and cumulative effects of these reactions on his or her own personal and professional identities. Surgeons also described an effect on their clinical judgement, both for the case in question (minimisation) and future cases (overcompensation).

Conclusions: Surgeons progress through a series of four phases following adverse events that are potentially caused by or directly linked to surgeon error. The framework provided by this study has implications for teaching, surgeon wellness and surgeon error.

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