Fear of Blame by Colleagues May Stop Anesthesiologists From Reporting Adverse Events

Anesthesiologists may hesitate to report adverse events or errors because they fear blame from colleagues, according to a study published in the Sept. 2011 issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia.

The study authors, led by Gaylene C. Heard, MBBS, FANZCA, at the department of anesthesia at St. Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, said that while anesthesiologists have led in patient safety, there has been little research in the specialty on factors affecting their reporting of adverse events and errors. The study authors sought to determine the attitudinal/emotional factors that influence reporting of an unspecified adverse event caused by error.

The study authors mailed anonymous, self-administered surveys to 629 consultant anesthesiologists and 263 anesthesiology residents. On the returned, usable surveys, the only attitudinal/emotional factor that influenced reporting of an unspecified adverse event caused by error with which more anesthesiologists agreed than disagreed was, "Doctors who make errors are blamed by their colleagues."

According to the authors, the majority of anesthesiologists in the study did not agree that attitudinal/emotional barriers would influence reporting of an adverse event caused by error. The only exception was the barrier of being concerned about blame by colleagues.

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