Why surgeons and anesthesiologists make mistakes

Pennsylvania surgeons and anesthesiologists are generally talented, dedicated medical professionals who routinely satisfy their oaths to do no harm.

However, every surgical procedure encompasses much more than the doctors’ knowledge and skill. Success in the operating room requires a team to work together seamlessly and communicate effectively.

Moreover, providers have a duty to take care of themselves so that they are in top form every time they enter the facility. One unclear instruction or detail missed could set in motion a chain of events that results in a surgical error.

Handoff procedures

The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation describes a “handoff” as the exchange of a patient between medical providers. This staff switching often happens when they move a patient from the pre-operative holding room into surgery, and then again into the post-operative recovery area. These transfers are usually standardized and commonplace but are often “conversations rather than reports,” which can leave room for interpretation and miscommunication. The margin for error may have more severe consequences when handoffs take place during lengthy surgical procedures for breaks or shift changes. Studies show that patients have a higher risk of death with the occurrence of intraoperative handoffs.

Physician burnout

The healthcare industry holds medical providers, especially surgeons and anesthesiologists, to an unimaginably high standard of execution and dedication. According to the American Medical Association, constant high stress experienced over the length of a doctor’s career can drain heavily on professional stamina and cause physicians to burn out. Burned-out providers can experience “depersonalization,” which often makes them less empathetic and occasionally hostile toward their patients. Coupled with physical and mental exhaustion, it concludes that overworked surgical teams may have an increased likelihood of being too fatigued put full their energy into their tasks. Worse, depersonalization might mean lead them to have a hard time caring, regardless of how hard they try. This inevitable decline in performance could cause surgical errors that are detrimental to patients.