An adverse event
is any event or circumstance arising during care that could have or did lead to
unexpected harm, loss or damage.
Much work has been done on managing
patients after an adverse event, particularly through the open disclosure
process. But managing doctors’ wellbeing after an adverse event is often
Recent research shows that adverse events can affect doctors
significantly. Both the incident itself and the way in which it is handled can
impact upon those involved. Common responses include emotional reactions such
as shock, disbelief, guilt and shame, loss of confidence and doubt about their
professional judgment . These impacts are not necessarily
proportional to the impact on the patient. At Avant we have had cases where a
relatively minor incident with minimal harm to the patient has had devastating
impacts on the doctor, even to the point where they reconsider their career
The research emphasises the long lasting emotional effects of
being involved in adverse events, and suggests that the extent and duration of
the impact of an adverse event is linked to the support provided following an
However, other research shows that doctors
tend to be unwilling to accept professional criticism or to receive support when
an adverse event occurs . Being open to help is important, emotional unburdening and receiving professional reassurance from peers plays a
critical role in recovery. Without this, health professionals can become
increasingly isolated  and even the threat of a complaint or
claim can cause emotional distress .
When you are
involved in an adverse event it is important to look after yourself, and to
access help and support. This will be better for you and for your patient.
If you are involved in an incident involving an adverse outcome, you should
also be aware of the need to notify your insurer in accordance with your
insurance incident notification requirements.