Response and resilience: Dealing with the impact of complications and errors on surgeons

Authors: Turner, K., Johnson, C., Thomas, K., Bolderston, H. and McDougall, S.

Journal: Royal College of Surgeons Annals Journal and Bulletin Journal


All surgical procedures carry with them the potential for adverse events. Dealing with the sequelae of the complications and errors that arise in the course of normal practice is therefore part and parcel of a surgeon’s working life. The challenges and stresses that this creates are now well recognised although surgical training has, until recently, done little to help surgeons prepare for such events and on-going professional and personal support is limited. This review shows that much of the research examining the impact of adverse events has been concentrated in healthcare systems outside of the UK, often markedly different to our own. With notable exceptions, sample sizes are often small and studies are often qualitative. While the latter provide rich and fascinating data, they may not always be representative, particularly if the focus is on serious errors where there is a risk of litigation. Despite the preponderance of complications, which are an acknowledged risk of surgical procedures, there is no research to date which has examined whether or not there are differences in the impact of complications versus errors on surgeons’ professional and personal lives. A national survey is currently planned to provide detailed information about the impact of adverse events – both complications and errors – which will map the way for better targeted support for surgeons to help them use their experiences to enhance their wellbeing and improve their practice.

Source: Manual