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Letters | Learning from medical errors

Fellow caregivers need to heal too

Medical errors hurt patients, families, and health care staff, but they also damage the relationships caregivers have with their colleagues, particularly if mistakes are not openly disclosed and discussed (“Airing medical mistakes,” Page A1, April 10).

Caregivers are frequently reluctant to discuss errors openly for fear of reprisal or loss of respect from coworkers. This is changing, but slowly. In addition to publishing these cases, as Brigham and Women’s Hospital is doing, more support is needed not just for the caregivers involved, but for other staff members who hear about these cases and don’t know how to respond.

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In discussions that our organization held on this topic in 2010 and 2011 at 65 health care institutions nationwide, participants reported tremendous relief from having a supportive forum to discuss past errors with colleagues. As one participant said, “Support from fellow caregivers is the most critical factor in being able to move forward.”

It takes a village to heal the harm an error can cause not only to patients and family members, but to caregivers as well.

Dr. Beth Lown

Medical director

The Schwartz Center for

Compassionate Healthcare

Boston

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