Role-modeling and medical error disclosure: a national survey of trainees

Acad Med. 2014 Mar;89(3):482-9. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000156.


Purpose: To measure trainees' exposure to negative and positive role-modeling for responding to medical errors and to examine the association between that exposure and trainees' attitudes and behaviors regarding error disclosure.

Method: Between May 2011 and June 2012, 435 residents at two large academic medical centers and 1,187 medical students from seven U.S. medical schools received anonymous, electronic questionnaires. The questionnaire asked respondents about (1) experiences with errors, (2) training for responding to errors, (3) behaviors related to error disclosure, (4) exposure to role-modeling for responding to errors, and (5) attitudes regarding disclosure. Using multivariate regression, the authors analyzed whether frequency of exposure to negative and positive role-modeling independently predicted two primary outcomes: (1) attitudes regarding disclosure and (2) nontransparent behavior in response to a harmful error.

Results: The response rate was 55% (884/1,622). Training on how to respond to errors had the largest independent, positive effect on attitudes (standardized effect estimate, 0.32, P < .001); negative role-modeling had the largest independent, negative effect (standardized effect estimate, -0.26, P < .001). Positive role-modeling had a positive effect on attitudes (standardized effect estimate, 0.26, P < .001). Exposure to negative role-modeling was independently associated with an increased likelihood of trainees' nontransparent behavior in response to an error (OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.15-1.64; P < .001).

Conclusions: Exposure to role-modeling predicts trainees' attitudes and behavior regarding the disclosure of harmful errors. Negative role models may be a significant impediment to disclosure among trainees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Disclosure*
  • Education, Medical / methods
  • Education, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Medical Errors*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Physician's Role*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires