The effect of clinical experience on the error rate of emergency physicians

Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Nov;52(5):497-501. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2008.01.329. Epub 2008 Mar 19.


Study objective: We assess the effect of emergency physicians' clinical experience on the propensity to commit a patient care error.

Methods: Seven years of data from a single emergency department's peer review activities were reviewed for all patient care errors made by emergency physicians. Emergency physician clinical experience was defined as years since completion of residency training during the year each error was made. A repeated-measures log-linear model was constructed that predicted error count and the rate of errors over time, with a correction for number of patients treated by each physician.

Results: Of 829 cases reviewed during 7 years, there were 374 emergency physician errors identified. Mean emergency physician experience was 8.1+/-8.6 years. Emergency physicians with experience of 1.5 years or more were less likely to make an error (relative risk [RR]=0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.48 to 0.91) than those who were less experienced. Errors were not associated with emergency physician age (RR=1.01; 95% CI 0.99 to 1.03) or sex (RR=1.29; 95% CI 0.93 to 1.79).

Conclusion: Emergency physicians with less than 1.5 years of clinical experience may be more likely to commit errors than more experienced emergency physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Emergency Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Peer Review