Examples of Critical Healthcare Incidents In Healthcare

Dave Clifton
Critical incident

Medical catastrophes of all kinds happen. Physicians, nurses, therapists, and healthcare administrators train, plan, and prepare as much as they can, but it’s nearly impossible to account for everything. Patients suffer undue harm – but so do the providers who must deal with the emotional, physical, and psychological effects of these examples of critical incidents in healthcare.

What Are Examples of Critical Incidents in Healthcare?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define critical incidents (CIs) as “unexpected events that may reach patients and thus threaten patient safety.” What NIH doesn’t list is how those unexpected patient safety events impact the providers directly and indirectly involved.

Critical healthcare events can include:

  • Serious injury (burn, cut, puncture wound, fall)
  • Misdiagnosis that results in serious injury or death
  • Surgical procedure on wrong body part
  • Caregiver neglect
  • Receive the wrong medication or incorrect dosage
  • Natural disasters that affect patient safety and care
  • Human-caused events (fire, flood, assault, criminal activity) 

Critical Incident Impact on Healthcare Providers

A 2023 study by Thriving in Health showed that healthcare providers are not “immune to the psychological impacts of critical incidents.” According to researchers, the effects that healthcare providers often deal with include:

Physical: Increased heart rate, restlessness, headache or abdominal discomfort

Behavioral: Rigidity, harshness, smoking or drinking excessively

Emotional: Crying, irritation, panic, disempowerment

Cognitive: Insecurity, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, loss of control or humorlessness

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of emergency department staff reported mild post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms with 20% saying they had moderate PTSD. Ambulance staff reported alcohol-related problems rose from 1.2% to 11.6% following exposure to an adverse incident.

Minimize Critical Incident Effects With Detailed Reporting

Following critical events, healthcare providers benefit from mental health counseling, workload management, and support from managers and executive leadership. Another healing benefit is how the organization responds to the incident and what measures are taken to prevent recurrences.

Dynamic incident reporting systems are a great way to ensure responsible parties are aware of critical events and empowered with data to safeguard healthcare staff and patients in the future.

An incident report is thorough documentation of the event, including all relevant details that caused it and any outcomes that stemmed from it. The key to a good incident report is completeness and accuracy, and that means documenting as much information as possible.

Critical Incident Reporting in Healthcare Facilities

Impactful incident reporting requires healthcare management to remove barriers so that staff can document and take responsibility for incidents. A digital incident reporting system makes that easier by with:

  1. Accessibility: Digital platforms or mobile apps offer 24/7 access for easy reporting from anywhere.
  2. Ease of use:  With an online system it is easy to customize as many different report types as needed so you can get exactly the information needed without extra questions or confusing fields. Plus it’s easy to track and analyze. 
  3. Easy to escalate: Many online solutions offer customizable escalation processes that are automatic when the report is completed. You choose the people to be notified based on report type, location, and more. 
  4. Anonymous: Anonymous reports strengthen policies and systems to protect the confidentiality of both the reports and the identities of reporters.
  5. Quick resolution: When the report is immediately forwarded to the appropriate managers, action and resolution can happen more quickly.

Digital incident reporting solution. It can help to create the proactive reporting culture you desire, eliminate delays, identify trends, and resolve issues more quickly.

MedTrainer offers all the functions listed above in an all-in-one compliance solution. Enhance your compliance programs with digital incident reporting solutions for any size organization. Contact us to learn more.


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