Background: Being involved in medical errors can compound the job-related stress many physicians experience. The impact of errors on physicians was examined. Methods: A survey completed by 3,171 of the 4,990 eligible physicians in internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, and surgery (64% response rate) examined how errors affected five work and life domains. Results: Physicians reported increased anxiety about future errors (61%), loss of confidence (44%), sleeping difficulties (42%), reduced job satisfaction (42%), and harm to their reputation (13%) following errors. Physicians' job-related stress increased when they had been involved with a serious error. However, one third of physicians only involved with near misses also reported increased stress. Physicians were more likely to be distressed after serious errors when they were dissatisfied with error disclosure to patients (odds ratio [OR] = 3.86, confidence interval [CI] = 1.66, 9.00), perceived a greater risk of being sued (OR = .28, CI = 1.50, 3.48), spent greater than 75% time in clinical practice (OR = 2.20, CI = 1.60, 3.01), or were female (OR = 1.91, CI = 1.21, 3.02). Only 10% agreed that health care organizations adequately supported them in coping with error-related stress. Discussion: Many physicians experience significant emotional distress and job-related stress following serious errors and near misses. Organizational resources to support physicans after errors should be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-476
Number of pages10
JournalJoint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


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