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Increased Risk of Burnout for Physicians and Nurses Involved in a Patient Safety Incident

Van Gerven, Eva MSc, PhD; Vander Elst, Tinne MSc, PhD; Vandenbroeck, Sofie RN, MSc, PhD; Dierickx, Sigrid MSc; Euwema, Martin MSc, PhD; Sermeus, Walter RN, MSc, PhD; De Witte, Hans MSc, PhD; Godderis, Lode MD, PhD; Vanhaecht, Kris RN, MSc, PhD

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000582
Original Articles

Background: Human errors occur everywhere, including in health care. Not only the patient, but also the involved health professional is affected (ie, the “second victim”).

Objectives: To investigate the prevalence of health care professionals being personally involved in a patient safety incident (PSI), as well as the relationship of involvement and degree of harm with problematic medication use, excessive alcohol consumption, risk of burnout, work-home interference (WHI), and turnover intentions.

Research Design: Multilevel path analyses were conducted to analyze cross-sectional survey data from 37 Belgian hospitals.

Subjects: A total of 5788 nurses (79.4%) and physicians (20.6%) in 26 acute and 11 psychiatric hospitals were included.

Measures: “Involvement in a patient safety incident during the prior 6 months,” “degree of harm,” and 5 outcomes were measured using self-report scales.

Results: Nine percent of the total sample had been involved in a PSI during the prior 6 months. Involvement in a PSI was related to a greater risk of burnout (β=0.40, OR=2.07), to problematic medication use (β=0.33, OR=1.84), to greater WHI (β=0.24), and to more turnover intentions (β=0.22). Harm to the patient was a predictor of problematic medication use (β=0.14, OR=1.56), risk of burnout (β=0.16, OR=1.62), and WHI (β=0.19).

Conclusions: Second victims experience significant negative outcomes in the aftermath of a PSI. An appropriate organizational response should be provided to mitigate the negative effects.

*Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy, KU Leuven, Leuven

Knowledge, Information and Research Center (KIR), Idewe, Brussels

Occupational & Organisational Psychology and Professional Learning

§Environment and Health, KU Leuven, Leuven

Department of Family Medicine & Chronic Care, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Ixelles

Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Ghent

#Optentia Research Focus Area, Vanderbijlpark, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

**General Management, University Hospitals Leuven & Flemish Hospital Network

††Department of Public Health & Primary Care, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Supported by the Federal Public Service of Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment and the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue of Belgium.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Kris Vanhaecht, RN, MSc, PhD, Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy, KU Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35/7001, 3000 Leuven, Belgium E-mail:

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.