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A personal reflection on staff experiences after critical incidents

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The effects of adverse iatrogenic events extend beyond patients and families to health care staff and organisations

Errors are common during the delivery of complex care in the Australian health care system.1 Adverse iatrogenic events (critical incidents) resulting in patient harm or death may be the most distressing for all involved. Many of these errors are preventable, but investments in programs to prevent health care-related adverse events have had varying success.2,3

After critical incidents occur, emphasis is rightly placed primarily on the immediate, interim and long-term care of the patient and family. At the same time, health care organisations must also manage the staff involved in the incident and ensure appropriate responses to reduce the risk of future events.

This is a personal account of how individual health care workers and organisations may respond, and then recover, after a devastating critical incident. Possible ideal responses after a critical incident and preventive workplace cultures are also considered.

Personal reflection

During my intensive care medicine training, I was involved in a team failure that resulted in the injury and subsequent death of a young family man due to a medical intervention. While I was not directly responsible, I…