55 orthopaedic surgeon suicides. How to prevent #56. →

Since my original keynote 2 years ago: 33 orthopaedic surgeon suicides: How to prevent #34, we’ve lost 22 more orthopaedic surgeon to suicide. On September 10, 2020, at the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, I share why each of these 55 doctors died died and how we can prevent future suicides among doctors. Afterwards we had 3.5 hours of Q&A and continued conversation (confidential, not recorded). Need to talk? Contact Dr. Wible here.

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What NOT to do after a medical error →

If you are a doctor (or med student/health professional) and you are human, you’ve probably made a medical mistake. You’ve probably not received emotional support for the mistake. Maybe you’ve never told anyone about a mistake that still haunts you today. 

The truth is most all physicians have admitted to medical mistakes sometime in their careers. Depending on the patient outcome, many doctors carry the distress of medical errors for months, years, even a lifetime. Some may even develop PTSD.

If you’ve experienced anxiety, depression, guilt, loss of confidence, or were haunted by intrusive thoughts in the aftermath of a medical error, you are normal. In fact, you’ve had second victim syndrome—a real condition that describes the psychological trauma a physician (or health professional) experiences as a result of an error.

I just got off the phone after speaking with a highly-skilled specialist suffering in isolation with grief, shame, and guilt after a recent medical mistake. During our hour long conversation she recalled another mistake from several years prior. I then shared de-identified case studies of other physicians I know (including my own) as examples of what not to do. 

Top 3 ways NOT to respond to a medical error:

1) Do not die by suicide. I know of several physicians who have taken their own lives in the aftermath of making even a minor medical mistake. Do not kill yourself. Please. Call someone. Call me.

2) Do not respond with self-abuse. Do not take the patient’s chart home to punish yourself by obsessing on your mistake over and over again for years to remind yourself that you are not as smart as you think you are (like one doctor I know who did this). Do not allow a mistake to overshadow your years of excellent care.

3) Do not wait decades to share your trauma. One physician broke down in tears in front of me about a medical error she experienced 30 years ago. She then apologized for crying. Then she told me she had not been able to cry in 10 years! 

After a decade helping doctors heal from suicidal thoughts, self-abuse, and isolation from recent and remote medical mistakes, I’ve discovered what actually works.

Top 5 ways to respond to a medical error:

1) Talk about your mistake. The most important thing you can do after a mistake is to talk to a trusted colleague (not a spouse, not even a nonphysician). If possible choose someone within your specialty who understands innately your experience. Your conversation should be 100% confidential. You deserve psychological support. The sooner you talk, the better. Do not isolate. Please.

2)  Forgive yourself. Avoid self-punishment by recognizing that you can not be a perfectionist in an imperfect world. You are human. You have often been subjected hazardous working conditions, even human rights violations in medicine involving sleep deprivation and overwork. To understand the widespread risk of medical errors, please view award-winning film, Do No Harm: Exposing The Hippocratic Hoax, that exposes how our working conditions lead to medical mistakes and doctor suicides.

3) Have faith. No matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs are, it is important to realize that there is a a force greater than us in this world. I personally love the quote, “Do your best and let God do the rest.” As long as you tried your best under the circumstances and were not malicious in your actions, please do not punish yourself.

4) Love your imperfections. Perfectionism is impossible to achieve. Be vulnerable and admit when you need help. You are human. Embrace your humanity. Have self-compassion and teach your colleagues to do the same.

5) Become an expert. Our most difficult cases teach us the most. Honor your patient by learning how to prevent future errors. Accept your error and grow professionally. Reframe your mistake as a positive teaching moment for your team and help other doctors prevent similar mistakes. Be a voice of inspiration and education for others.

You can not only survive a medical mistake, your mistake can make you a better doctor. Above all, please don’t give up on yourself or your career.

To join a 100% confidential peer-to-peer support group retreat for physician struggling with medical errors, contact Dr. Wible.

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Coronavirus pandemic increasing already high risk of doctor suicide →

Listen to the interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting here.

Rates of suicide for physicians are among the highest for any profession. And the strain of the coronavirus pandemic is making already strenuous working conditions nearly impossible to bear for some and impossible for others. We talk with two Oregon doctors involved in responding to the mental health crisis in medicine and ask what is being done to prevent it. Pamela Wible practices medicine in Eugene and is the author of “Human Rights Violations in Medicine: A-to-Z Action Guide.” Don Girard is professor emeritus at Oregon Health & Science University and chairs the executive committee of the Oregon Wellness Program.

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September 17th is Physician Suicide Awareness Day. Join me in honoring 93 doctors we lost to suicide. →

View the Wall of Remembrance (above) at the end of the newly released award-winning documentary, Do No Harm: Exposing the Hippocratic Hoax, a film that exposes our doctor suicide  crisis and honors nearly 100 doctors who have died by suicide. Join me today in remembering them. View full-feature film by Emmy-winning filmmaker now on Amazon Prime.

Greg Hamlin Miday, M.D., Internist

Kevin Thomas Dietl, D.O., Degree Awarded Posthumously

Kaitlyn Nicole Elkins, Medical Student

Sean Michael Petro, Medical Student

Emily Ariel Bamberger, M.D.,Ph.D. Candidate

Jacob “Dr. J” Neufeld, M.D., M.P.H, Pediatric Physiatrist

John Chuan Loh, Medical Student

Gabriel Goodwin, M.D., Anesthesiologist

Evan Astin, M.D., Internal Medicine Resident

Gregory Andrew Collins, M.D., Family Physician

Lara Barnett, M.D., Internal Medicine Resident

Charles Christopher Martin, M.D., Family Medicine Resident

Carrie Ann Largent, Medical Student

William Samuel Brown, M.D., Radiologist

Robert Karoly Chu, M.D., M.P.H., Aspiring Radiologist

Jeremy Egnatios, Medical Student

Steven G. Ortiz, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon

Alan R. Rowlan, M.D., Surgeon

Kim Marie Walsh, M.D., M.P.H., Family Physician

Ross Alan Gallo, M.D., Psychiatrist

Abdurrahman Unal, M.D., Radiation Oncologist

Alain Bolduc, M.D., Dermatologist

Alex Djuricich, M.D., Internist and Pediatrician

Amanda Liu, D.O., Radiology Resident

Andrew Bryant, M.B.B.S., Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist

Benjamin Shaffer, M.D., Orthopaedic Surgeon

Boyd Dan Batla, Medical Student

Bryan Whitemarsh, M.D., Family Physician

Captain Michael McCaddon, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynecology Resident

Carol D. Lee, M.D., Emergency Physician

Chloe Eliza Abbott, M.B.B.S., Medical Registrar

Christine E. Petrich, M.D., Psychiatrist

Christopher Dawson, M.D., Surgeon

Corbin Shawn, M.D., M.S., Pathology Resident

Daniel Gunther, M.D., Pediatric Endocrinologist

David Gersztenkorn, M.D., Ophthalmology Resident

David Scott Brooks, M.D., Family Physician

Deelshad Joomun, M.D., Interventional Nephrologist

Douglas F. Meyer, M.D., M.P.H., Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist

Eric S. Steichen, Medical Student

Greg Feldman, M.D., Vascular Surgeon

Hans Christopher Machula, M.D., Degree Awarded Posthumously

Jack Andrew Singer, M.D., Ophthalmologist

James C. Kelly, D.O., Family Physician

James K. Bauman, M.D., Obstetrician/Gynecologist

James Ray Anderson, D.O., General Practitioner

James Wilson Dow, M.D., Cardiologist

Janet Y. Christophel, M.D., Anesthesiology Resident

Jeffrey Knobloch, D.O., Family Physician

John D. Wilson, Sr., M.D., Family Physician

John Franklin Dorsey, Medical Student

John Mark Baar, M.D., Psychiatrist

John Mark Madsen, Medical Student

John McNaugher Stang, M.D., Cardiologist

Jon Azkue, M.D., Internist

Jonathan J. Drummond-Webb, M.D., Pediatric and Congenital Cardiac Surgeon

Jonathan W. R. Davies, M.D., Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Kelly Werlinger, M.D., Aspiring Dermatologist

Kurt A. Swanson, M.D., Anesthesiologist

Lee Ray Winkler, D.O., Obstetrics/Gynecology Resident

Leslie Gale Bluman, Medical Student

Marc E. Wise, M.D., J.D., Anesthesiology Resident

Mark A. Gonsky, D.O., General Practitioner

Mark William Sebastian, M.D., Vascular Surgeon

Matt Wittman, Medical Student

Matthew Carl Bishop, M.D., M.B.A., Emergency Physician

Mitchell D. Hardison, M.D., Internist

Myles K. Gaupp, Jr., M.D., Family Physician

Natalie Carol Sieb, D.O., Family Physician

Nehal A. Shah, M.D., Aspiring Family Physician

Neil Grover, Medical Student

Noah Chase Beadell, M.D., Neurologist

Paki Myers, M.D., Emergency Physician

Patrick Glenn Daus, D.O., Emergency Physician

Ramsey Oliver Coles, Medical Student

Richard Irwin Caesar, M.D., Addiction Specialist and Emergency Physician

Richard “Pete” Dickson, M.D., Family Physician

Rita E. Leighton, M.D., Anesthesiologist

Rita Kay Payne, M.D., Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Robert E. Elliott, M.D., Radiologist

Robert Shaw Bowling, Jr., M.D., Family Physician

Robert Wolyn, M.D., Cardiologist

Ronald Chance Brown, M.D., Internist

Roseanna Polge, B.M.B.S., Medical Intern

Russel J. Vancoevering, II, M.D., Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Scot Pencil, M.D., Ph.D., Pathologist

Shawn C. Kelley, M.D., Internist

Stephen P. Kelleher, M.D., Nephrologist

Steven L. Anthony, D.O., Otolaryngologist

Ted Eastburn, M.D., Cardiologist

Varun Babu, M.D., Cardiology Resident

Wayne Allen Hendrix, M.D., Anesthesiology Resident

Wayne M. Gunckle, D.O., Orthopaedic Surgeon

                            . . . and the thousands of unnamed doctors . . .

View documentary and help stop the crisis.

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New award-winning film exposes doctor suicide crisis →

View full-feature documentary by Emmy-winning filmmaker now on Amazon Prime.


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