Coping with errors in the operating room: Intraoperative strategies, postoperative strategies, and sex differences

Jonathan D. D'Angelo, Sarah Lund, Rebecca A. Busch, Sarah Tevis, Kellie L. Mathis, Scott R. Kelley, Eric J. Dozois, Anne Lise D. D'Angelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prior work has identified intraoperative and postoperative coping strategies among surgeons and has demonstrated surgical errors to have a significant impact on patient outcomes and physicians. Little research has considered which coping strategies are most common among surgeons and if there exist coping strategy differences among sex or training level. Methods: An electronic survey was distributed to surgical faculty and trainees at 3 institutions. Variables included coping techniques after making an error in the operating room. Participants were asked to report the effectiveness of their overall coping strategy. Results: A total of 168 participants (56% male, 45% faculty) experienced an operative error and answered questions regarding coping strategies. The only coping strategy significantly associated with positive ratings of coping effectiveness was, upon error, taking a step back and taking time to think and act (r = 0.17; P = .024). There were differences between men and women in both intra and postoperative coping strategies. Men (mean = 3.69/5, standard error = .09) viewed their overall coping strategy as more effective than women (mean = 3.38/5, standard error = .09), t(158.86) = 2.47; P = .015. Conclusion: Although both male and female surgeons reported making errors in the operating room, differences exist in the strategies surgeons use to cope with these mistakes, and strategies differ in their ratings of effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-445
Number of pages6
JournalSurgery (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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