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Sujane Kandasamy

and 5 more

Rationale, aims, and objectives: The complexity of healthcare systems makes errors unavoidable. To strengthen the dialogue around how physicians experience and share medical errors, the objective of this study was to understand how experienced generalist physicians make meaning of and grow from their medical errors. Methods: This study used a narrative inquiry approach to conduct and analyze in-depth interviews from 26 physicians from the generalist specialties of emergency, internal, and family medicine. We gathered stories via individual interview, analyzed them for key components, and rewrote a ‘meta-story’ in a chronological sequence. We conceptualized the findings into a metaphor to draw similarities, learn from, and apply new principles from other fields of practice. Results: Through analysis we interpreted the story of an elite athlete (physician) who is required to make numerous decisions in a short period of time within the construct of a chaotic sports field (clinical environment) among spectators (the patient’s family) whilst abiding by existing rules and regulations. Through sharing stories of success and failure, the team coach (clinical mentor) helps optimize the players’ professional and psychological development. Similarly, through sharing and learning from stories, team members (colleagues) and junior team members (trainees) also contribute to the growth of the protagonist’s character and the development of the overall team (clinic/hospital) and sport (healthcare system). Conclusion: We draw parallels between the clinical setting and a generalist physician’s experiences of a medical error with the environment and practices within professional sports. Using this comparison, we discuss the potential for meaningful coaching in medical education.