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The Association Between Frequency of Self-Reported Medical Errors and Anesthesia Trainee Supervision: A Survey of United States Anesthesiology Residents-in-Training

De Oliveira, Gildasio S. Jr. MD, MSCI; Rahmani, Rod BS; Fitzgerald, Paul C. MS; Chang, Ray BS; McCarthy, Robert J. PharmD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e318277dd65
Economics, Education, and Policy: Research Reports

BACKGROUND: Poor supervision of physician trainees can be detrimental not only to resident education but also to patient care and safety. Inadequate supervision has been associated with more frequent deaths of patients under the care of junior residents. We hypothesized that residents reporting more medical errors would also report lower quality of supervision scores than the ones with lower reported medical errors. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the association between the frequency of medical errors reported by residents and their perceived quality of faculty supervision.

METHODS: A cross-sectional nationwide survey was sent to 1000 residents randomly selected from anesthesiology training departments across the United States. Residents from 122 residency programs were invited to participate, the median (interquartile range) per institution was 7 (4–11). Participants were asked to complete a survey assessing demography, perceived quality of faculty supervision, and perceived causes of inadequate perceived supervision. Responses to the statements “I perform procedures for which I am not properly trained,” “I make mistakes that have negative consequences for the patient,” and “I have made a medication error (drug or incorrect dose) in the last year” were used to assess error rates. Average supervision scores were determined using the De Oliveira Filho et al. scale and compared among the frequency of self-reported error categories using the Kruskal-Wallis test.

RESULTS: Six hundred four residents responded to the survey (60.4%). Forty-five (7.5%) of the respondents reported performing procedures for which they were not properly trained, 24 (4%) reported having made mistakes with negative consequences to patients, and 16 (3%) reported medication errors in the last year having occurred multiple times or often. Supervision scores were inversely correlated with the frequency of reported errors for all 3 questions evaluating errors. At a cutoff value of 3, supervision scores demonstrated an overall accuracy (area under the curve) (99% confidence interval) of 0.81 (0.73–0.86), 0.89 (0.77–0.95), and 0.93 (0.77–0.98) for predicting a response of multiple times or often to the question of performing procedures for which they were not properly trained, reported mistakes with negative consequences to patients, and reported medication errors in the last year, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Anesthesiology trainees who reported a greater incidence of medical errors with negative consequences to patients and drug errors also reported lower scores for supervision by faculty. Our findings suggest that further studies of the association between supervision and patient safety are warranted. (Anesth Analg 2013;116:892–7)

From the Department of Anesthesiology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.

Accepted for publication, October 5, 2012.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence to Gildasio S. De Oliveira, Jr., MD, MSCI, Department of Anesthesiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron St., F5-704, Chicago, IL 60611. Address e-mail to G-jr@northwestern.edu.

© 2013 International Anesthesia Research Society
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