Do house officers learn from their mistakes?

A. W. Wu, S. Folkman, S. J. McPhee, B. Lo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Mistakes are inevitable in medicine. To learn how medical mistakes relate to subsequent changes in practice, we surveyed 254 internal medicine house officers. One hundred and fourteen house officers (45%) completed an anonymous questionnaire describing their most significant mistake and their response to it. Mistakes included errors in diagnosis (33%), prescribing (29%), evaluation (21%), and communication (5%) and procedural complications (11%). Patients had serious adverse outcomes in 90% of the cases, including death in 31% of cases. Only 54% of house officers discussed the mistake with their attending physicians, and only 24% told the patients or families. House officers who accepted responsibility for the mistake and discussed it were more likely to report constructive changes in practice. Residents were less likely to make constructive changes if they attributed the mistake to job overload. They were more likely to report defensive changes if they felt the institution was judgmental. Decreasing the work load and closer supervision may help prevent mistakes. To promote learning, faculty should encourage house officers to accept responsibility and to discuss their mistakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-226; discussion 227-228
JournalQuality & safety in health care
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Do house officers learn from their mistakes?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this