In the aftermath of medical error : Caring for patients, family, and the healthcare workers involved

Schwappach, David (2015). In the aftermath of medical error : Caring for patients, family, and the healthcare workers involved. Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz, 58(1), pp. 80-6. Springer-Medizin-Verlag 10.1007/s00103-014-2083-4

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Medical errors, in particular those resulting in harm, pose a serious situation for patients ("first victims") and the healthcare workers involved ("second victims") and can have long-lasting and distressing consequences. To prevent a second traumatization, appropriate and empathic interaction with all persons involved is essential besides error analysis. Patients share a nearly universal, broad preference for a complete disclosure of incidents, regardless of age, gender, or education. This includes the personal, timely and unambiguous disclosure of the adverse event, information relating to the event, its causes and consequences, and an apology and sincere expression of regret. While the majority of healthcare professionals generally support and honest and open disclosure of adverse events, they also face various barriers which impede the disclosure (e.g., fear of legal consequences). Despite its essential importance, disclosure of adverse events in practice occurs in ways that are rarely acceptable to patients and their families. The staff involved often experiences acute distress and an intense emotional response to the event, which may become chronic and increase the risk of depression, burnout and post-traumatic stress disorders. Communication with peers is vital for people to be able to cope constructively and protectively with harmful errors. Survey studies among healthcare workers show, however, that they often do not receive sufficient individual and institutional support. Healthcare organizations should prepare for medical errors and harmful events and implement a communication plan and a support system that covers the requirements and different needs of patients and the staff involved.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Review Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Schwappach, David


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

03 Dec 2014 16:45

Last Modified:

13 May 2022 15:28

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