What is the impact of adverse events on surgeons?

All surgical procedures carry 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. Although it is crucial to focus on the needs of patients and their families when errors occur, it is also important to recognise that surgeons may be the ‘second victims’ in such circumstances. This is not least because they must respond to the challenge of providing effective patient care and may also need to deal with the reactions of the patient’s family, with the judgements of colleagues and, in some cases, with disciplinary or legal proceedings. Until now it has been unclear how, and to what extent, surgeons need support. We have recently launched a national research study to explore these issues. Our research aims to examine the nature of the impact that adverse events have on the professional and personal lives of surgeons, whether there may be differences in that impact for complications versus errors and the nature of the support that surgeons might require as a result. For further information see www.surgeonwellbeing.co.uk or follow us on Twitter @Surgeons_UK.