Burnout In and Commission of Medical Errors by Secondary School Athletic Trainers

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Health Professions


Context: Commission of medical errors by health care providers can be costly and potentially fatal for their patients. Previous researchers found a correlation between burnout and the commission of medical errors by physicians. The Smith Cognitive-Affective Model of Athletic Burnout suggests that emotional exhaustion and decreased personal accomplishment in athletic trainers (ATs) may be associated with behavioral outcomes such as commission of medical errors, but this association has not been examined.

Objective: To explore the association between burnout in and commission of medical errors by ATs.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Web-based survey.

Patients or Other Participants: A total of 403 certified ATs working in the secondary school setting were recruited via multiple social media pages and the National Athletic Trainers' Association Research Survey Service.

Main Outcome Measure(s): An online questionnaire that consisted of 97 items from previously used scales was distributed to participants. A logistic regression model with personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion as independent variables and a dichotomous variable for commission of medical errors (yes or no) as a dependent variable was calculated. A Poisson regression model with personal accomplishment and emotional exhaustion as independent variables and number of medical errors committed as a dependent variable was also calculated.

Results: Approximately 18.4% of our sample admitted to committing at least 1 medical error in the last 30 days. Both personal accomplishment (odds ratio = 1.06, P = .005) and emotional exhaustion (odds ratio = 1.02, P = .037) were significantly associated with commission of at least 1 medical error. Emotional exhaustion (B = .02, P = .002) was significantly associated with the number of medical errors committed.

Conclusions: Athletic trainers committed medical errors at a rate comparable with that of other health care professionals. Burnout was directly associated with both the likelihood of an AT committing a medical error and the number of errors an AT committed.

Publication Title

Journal of Athletic Training





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