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Rates of perceived medical errors and its correlation with work-related factors and personal distress among emergency physicians in China: a national cross-sectional study


Purpose Medical errors are a global concern, and specifically, EDs are at considerable risk for medical errors. Few studies focus on the healthcare provider’s self-perceived medical errors in hospitals, let alone the ED. Hence, this study explored perceived medical errors and their correlation with work-related factors and personal distress among physicians in EDs in China.

Methods From July 2018 to August 2018, a national web-based cross-sectional study was conducted. The link to the web-based questionnaire was posted on the emergency physicians’ working platform, inviting Chinese licensed emergency physicians to participate anonymously in this survey. Our outcome of interest, medical errors, was investigated using self-reporting methods. Occupational stress was assessed using the Chinese version of the Effort-Reward Imbalance scale. The Patient Health Questionnaire, the subscale of the 10-item Positive and Negative Affect Schedule, the subscale of the validated Leiden Quality of Work Questionnaire and the 10-item Generalised Self-efficacy Scale were used to assess personal distress. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors significantly associated with perceived medical errors.

Results A sample of 10 457 emergency physicians completed the survey. Almost half (43.63%) of physicians reported self-perceived medical errors during the previous 3 months. The rate of workplace verbal aggression, effort-reward imbalance and depressive symptoms were 81.81%, 78.39% and 35.71%, respectively. Medical errors were more likely to be reported among chief physicians, and those who reported the department was short-staffed for physicians, and who experienced workplace verbal aggression and intense work stress. Medical errors were significantly associated with negative affect and lower self-efficacy.

Conclusion Self-perceived medical errors are prevalent among physicians working in EDs and are associated with their workplace environment and personal distress. Targeted interventions are required to reduce physicians’ workload and improve their working environment. Accounting for healthcare providers’ distress is imperative for reducing the incidence of medical errors and improving their health.

  • emergency department
  • epidemiology
  • mental disorders
  • safety
  • medical errors

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

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