Collateral damage: The effect of patient complications on the surgeon's psyche
Background: The effect of patient complications on physicians is not well understood. Our objective was to determine the impact of a surgeon's complication(s) on his/her emotional state and job performance. Methods: An anonymous survey was distributed to Midwest Surgical Society members and attending surgeons within the Grand Rapids, Michigan, community. Results: There were 123 respondents (30.5% response rate). For the majority of participants, the first complication that had a significant emotional impact on them occurred during residency (51.2%). Most respondents reported this did not impair their professional functioning (77.2%). If a major complication was first experienced after residency, this had a greater likelihood of causing impairment (P < .05). Surgeons primarily dealt with the emotional impact by discussing it with a surgical partner (87.8%). Alcohol or other substance use increased in 6.5% of those surveyed. Most respondents (58.5%) felt it was difficult to handle the emotional effects of complications throughout their careers and this did not improve with experience. Conclusion: The majority of surgeons agreed that it was difficult to handle the emotional effects of complications throughout their careers. Efforts should be made to increase awareness of unrecognized emotional effects of patient complications and improve access to support systems for surgeons.
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