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“80% of the Hospital Staff Declares to Have Already Been Involved in a Medical Incident”

X-Ray of a surgical instrument in a body

X-Ray of a surgical instrument in a body

Today the Belgian quality radio channel Radio1 shed a light on medical errors and the effects on the mental health of the doctors involved. In a clarifying interview Kris Vanhaecht, Associate Professor Patient Safety and Quality in Healthcare at the University of Leuven explains this taboo we face and how we can tackle it. Most interesting footage to start your workweek if you ask us. To our foreign friends, unfortunately the interview is in Dutch but we’ve been so kind to translate the most remarkable findings for you.
Catch up on the complete session here.
Accompanying article.

Some notable quotes

“According to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization, 1 out of 10 patients has already suffered from a medical error. This implies e.g. hospital infections, incorrect medication, diagnostic mistakes and errors in surgical procedures.”

“After extensive research at thirty Dutch hospitals in which 30 000 doctors, nurses and midwives were questioned, 80% of them declared they have already been involved in a medical incident.”

“Although the awareness is growing as there is more transparency, the communication needs to improve drastically. Daring to admit that it didn’t go as planned, is step one. After all they didn’t mean for it to happen. It’s unintentional. Creating a transparent communication is an important assignment for both the clinical staff as the management.”

“Medical mistakes have a large impact on the treating doctor. For the doctor it’s a vicious circle of feeling guilty due to a medical error, resulting in uncertainty when performing a procedure and therefore creating a bigger chance of making a medical mistake again. This is what we call the second victim syndrome.”

“Hyper alertness, working with fear because you’re scared to make the same mistake again, occurs in 53% of the involved caregivers. This makes it one of the most common symptoms of the second victim syndrome. Any additional symptoms are stress and doubting your own knowledge and skills. I can imagine you don’t feel safe having a doctor who suffers from this last one.”

“An additional 23% of them experience flashbacks, reliving the incident. If you suffer from these flashbacks for more than a month, you enter a danger zone for post-traumatic stress and then the risk of getting involved in yet another medical incident increases again. In this way, you again are being drawn into that vicious circle. Not to mention the impact on family life.”

“The current figures create a bigger awareness concerning the second victim syndrome. The ideal vision that the medical staff is untouchable and never make mistakes, needs to be put more into perspective. This taboo needs to be tackled for people to start talking. We try to guide them in this process by developing a kind of peer support here, where psychotherapy is offered if necessary.”