April 29, 2021

Emotional outcomes of intraoperative deaths on surgical teams

Editor's Note

This study from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, finds that intraoperative deaths negatively affect surgical team members, with a considerable number experiencing feelings of anger and depression.

Of 120 OR team members completing a survey, 82 (68.3%) said they had prior experience with intraoperative deaths, referencing more than 300 experiences. A total of 20 (24.4%) believed that at least one of the deaths they experienced could have been prevented.

When team members were asked which of the five stages of grief they experienced after intraoperative deaths:

  • 71% said acceptance
  • 50% said denial
  • 40% said depression.

More than 60% said they continued working within 24 hours of a death, and they wished to do so. Of 24% who continued working despite not wanting to, 13% said their professional abilities were compromised.

When asked what the hospital could do to better support staff, respondents answered: formalized debriefings, staff check-ins, counseling, and specific training/education.

The findings suggest that sustainable tools must be designed and implemented to support staff after intraoperative deaths, the authors say.


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