Affect is central to patient safety: The horror stories of young anaesthetists

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Journal Article
Social Science and Medicine, 2009, 69 (12), pp. 1750 - 1756
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This paper analyses talk produced by twenty-four newly qualified anaesthetists. Data were collected from round table discussions at the Young Fellows Conference of the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists 2006. The talk consisted to an important extent of narratives about experiences of horror. The paper isolates three themes: the normalization of horror, the functionalisation of horror for pedagogic purposes, and the problematization of horror. The last theme provides a springboard into our argument that confronting the affect invested in coping with medical-clinical failure is central to enabling young doctors, and clinicians generally, to address and resolve such adverse events. We conclude that the negotiation of affect through shared or 'dialogic' narrative is central to enabling doctors to deal with adverse events on a personal level, and to enabling them at a collective level to become attentive to threats to patients' safety. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd.
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