Teaching medical error disclosure to physicians-in-training: a scoping review

Acad Med. 2013 Jun;88(6):884-92. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828f898f.


Purpose: This scoping review identified published studies of error disclosure curricula targeting physicians-in-training (residents or medical students).

Method: In 2011, the authors searched electronic databases (e.g., MEDLINE, EMBASE, ERIC) for eligible studies published between 1960 and July 2011. From the studies that met their inclusion criteria, they extracted and summarized key aspects of each curriculum (e.g., level of learner, program discipline) and educational features (e.g., curriculum design, teaching and assessment methods, and learner outcomes).

Results: The authors identified 21 studies that met their inclusion criteria. These studies described 19 error disclosure curricula, which were either a stand-alone educational activity, part of a larger curriculum in patient safety or communication skills, or part of simulation training. Most curricula consisted of a brief, single encounter, combining didactic lectures or small-group discussions with role-play. Fourteen studies described learners' self-reported improvements in knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Five studies used a structured assessment and reported that learners' error disclosure skills improved after completing the curriculum; however, these studies were limited by their small to medium sample size and lack of assessment of skills retention. Attempts to assess the change in learners' error disclosure behavior in the clinical context were limited.

Conclusions: Studies of existing error disclosure curricula demonstrate improvements in learners' knowledge, skills, and attitudes. A greater emphasis is needed on the more rigorous assessment of skills acquisition and behavior change to determine whether formal training leads to long-term effects on learner outcomes that translate into real-world clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Medical Errors*
  • Truth Disclosure*