Medical errors, especially those resulting in patient harm, have a negative psychological impact on patients and healthcare workers. Healing may be promoted if both parties are able to work together and explore the effect and outcome of the event from each of their perspectives. There is little existing research in this area, even though this has the potential to improve patient safety and wellness for both healthcare workers and patients.
Using a patient-oriented research approach, this study in BMJ Open Quality examined the potential for patients and healthcare workers to heal together after harm from a medical error. The study's findings suggest that, after a medical error causing harm, both patients and healthcare workers have feelings of empathy and respect towards each other that often goes unrecognised. Barriers to communication for patients were related to their perception that healthcare workers did not care about them, showed no remorse or did not admit to the error. For healthcare workers, communication barriers were related to feelings of blame or shame, and fear of professional and legal consequences. Patients reported needing open and transparent communications to help them heal, and healthcare workers required leadership and peer support, including training and space to talk about the event.
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