Why Supporting Clinicians After a Harm Event is Beneficial for Us All

May 2, 2022
Ripples of hurt

Sadly, in health care, sometimes things go wrong despite best intentions. This could be an adverse outcome of a procedure, a diagnosis delay or a surgical error. Oftentimes, these harm events cause unintentional ripples of hurt—for patients, senior living residents, clinicians, care teams and health care organizations.

Harm events, which may not be due to medical negligence, can result in malpractice claims or lawsuits, and drain the passion and compassion of even the most confident clinician. But the impact doesn’t end there.

“When clinicians and care team members struggle, their health care organizations also feel the impact. Clinicians under the stress of a harm event, malpractice claim or lawsuit may see fewer patients, disrupt care team cohesion, retire early or leave the practice of medicine—actions that lower productivity, raise costs and detract from team and patient satisfaction.”

Monica Chadwick, Constellation Senior Risk Consultant

Clinicians and care team members who do not receive support and struggle with the emotions involved after a harm event can experience burnout, and in some cases, the clinician will choose early retirement over the continued stress of the job. This leads to yet another ripple effect, one that patients may also feel, which is access to health care. In the coming years, the U.S. will face a critical shortage of physicians. According to a report by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), we could see an estimated shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care. While the shortage is due to many factors, including stress and burnout, AAMC’s report notes that many physicians are nearing retirement age, and their retirement decisions will dramatically affect the magnitude of the physician workforce shortage. Supporting clinicians and care team members in the aftermath of a harm event can help mitigate the risk of early departures and boost morale and team connection during a difficult time. 

Why supporting clinicians after a harm event is beneficial for us all

At Constellation, we believe there’s a better way to navigate harm events, a way that creates a path to healing for everyone involved. That’s why we created HEAL, an early intervention program focused on acting promptly after a harm event occurs, both to shorten the life cycle of the event (the time between when the event is reported and when it is resolved) and to reduce the sequence of negative impacts it may cause.

HEAL’s four core services—created to support clinicians after a harm event:
  • Risk consultation—uncovering what contributed to a harm event and helping a health care organization—and future patients and senior living residents—benefit from that hard-won knowledge is important to helping everyone move forward.
  • Communication assistance—research shows that communicating openly and compassionately when a harm event occurs can reduce the likelihood of claims or lawsuits, and has many additional benefits, for both patients, senior living residents and clinicians.
  • Expert case review—we partner with external medical experts to determine whether the standard of care was met as soon as we receive report of a harm event. If it is determined that the standard of care was not met, and that this caused the harm, we let the involved clinician(s) and team(s) know right away.
  • Clinician peer support—clinicians involved in a harm event frequently struggle with reduced confidence, feelings of shame, distracted thoughts, and emotions that can interfere with their productivity and ability to continue providing safe, high-quality care to their patients.

Our webinar, Helping Clinicians Navigate Uncertainty Following Harm Events, features Dr. Loie Lenarz, one of Constellation’s Peer Support Consultants. Dr. Lenarz is a family medicine physician who works with clinicians and teams to help them develop their capacity to lead and to maintain resilience and passion in their work. She recently retired from her practice and is eager to help others challenged by the emotional stress that patient harm events can cause, whether they lead to malpractice claims or not.

When clinicians are supported in managing their emotional wellbeing, they’re more likely to:

  • Continue to be focused, productive members of the care team
  • Remain with the practice instead of pursuing other employment or retiring early
  • Maintain a healthy trust in their patients and senior living residents

Constellation’s HEAL program provides healing benefits for care teams and their organizations because we truly believe that what’s good for care teams is good for business.

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