Teaching medical error apologies: Development of a multi-component intervention

Ralph A. Gillies, Stacie H. Speers, Sara E. Young, Christopher A. Fly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Apologizing is an important component in addressing medical errors; yet, offering apologies continues to challenge physicians. To address limitations of prior educational interventions, a multi-faceted, apologies intervention was developed to provide medical students with increasingly applied learning opportunities. METHODS: First-year medical students taking a professionalism course at the authors' Southeastern medical school in 2008 or 2009 were eligible for the study. Data from their assigned activities and a post-intervention survey were analyzed. RESULTS: A total of 384 students contributed study data; 57.8% were male, 58.6% white, 10.9% Asian-Indian, 10.9% Asian-Other, and 7.6% African-American. Seventy-four percent of students considered tasks as useful or extremely useful. Student confidence in providing effective apologies increased as well as their comfort in disclosing errors to a faculty member or patient. Perceived importance of apology skills similarly increased. Apologies written by female authors were rated higher in effectiveness by peers than apologies written by male authors. Apology evaluators adopting patient perspective were more critical than evaluators adopting peer perspective. No race differences were found. CONCLUSIONS: This intervention was perceived useful by students and demonstrated medium to large effect size changes in importance, confidence, and comfort around apology errors. The higher evaluations of apologies written by female authors as well as the lower evaluations by evaluators adopting patient perspective warrant further consideration. Additional research is also warranted on streamlining and implementing the intervention for other institutions and ultimately how actual student apology behaviors are later affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-406
Number of pages7
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


Dive into the research topics of 'Teaching medical error apologies: Development of a multi-component intervention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this