Many physicians experience significant emotional distress following near misses and medical errors, according to a new study in the August 2007 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety

Roughly half the physicians surveyed reported that medical errors increased job-related stress, while one in three physicians involved only with near misses also reported that their lives were negatively affected including anxiety about future errors, loss of confidence, reduced job satisfaction and fear of harm to their reputations.

Although more than 80% of physicians expressed interest in counseling after serious errors, they were reluctant to seek it out. “Counseling needs to be made available to patients and health care professionals so that everyone involved with errors receives the support they need,” says Amy Waterman, PhD, psychologist and assistant professor of medicine, Washington University School of Medicine.

More than one-third of physicians felt that taking time away from work for counseling was difficult (43%), did not believe that counseling would be helpful (35%), were concerned that what was said in a counseling session would not be kept confidential if they were sued (35%) and that receiving counseling could negatively affect their malpractice insurance (23%).