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Help to cope with adverse events

By Olive Carterton

Surgeons are being asked to take part in a survey aiming to find out the true impact of adverse events on them and to give them better support.

A research team led by Mr Kevin Turner, a consultant urological surgeon in Bournemouth, is conducting the first large-scale national study in the UK that will give a detailed national picture of the challenges, responses, and resilience surgeons have when dealing with adverse events.

It is hoped this will enable more appropriate and better targeted support, ‘enhancing the quality of surgeons’ professional and personal lives and help them to use their experiences to improve their practice’.

Mr Turner, co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Urological Surgery, said: ‘There are aspects of the impact of adverse events that will be common to all doctors. However, there are some issues which are unique to surgeons.

‘Surgical adverse events are linked to individual decisions and actions/inactions by a named surgeon in a way that just doesn’t occur so prevalently in other areas of medicine. Anecdotally, surgeons are also less likely to engage with existing support services.

‘My research group and I are motivated by a desire to better help surgeons when adverse events happen. We want to build up an accurate picture of how UK surgeons are affected when things go wrong, and then we want to recommend ways in which surgeons could be helped to prepare for and deal with adverse events.’

The survey and other information can be seen at

Welcoming the research, the MDU’s Dr Mike Devlin said it can be devastating not only for the patient, but also for the doctor when things go wrong as a result of surgical treatment.

Dr Devlin said: ‘Recognising the harmful effects that adverse events have on those in providing clinical care, the term “second victim” has been used. This is a useful concept and helps us to understand why such events can be incredibly stressful to deal with, sometimes leading to prolonged stress and affecting an individual’s health, ultimately impacting on professional and family life.’