BMJ Qual Saf 21:279-286 doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000359
  • Original research

Medical errors reported by French general practitioners in training: results of a survey and individual interviews

  1. Michel Nougairede
  1. Department of General Medical Practice, Paris Diderot University, Paris, France
  1. Correspondence to Professor Eric Galam, Department of General Medical Practice, Paris Diderot University, 30 boulevard Ornano, Paris 7018, France; eric.galam{at}
  1. Contributors EV carried out and analysed the surveys, interviewed the interns, carried out the qualitative analysis of the interviews, drafted and wrote the manuscript. EG conceived the idea for the study, managed the project, carried out the qualitative analysis of the interviews, assisted writing the manuscript. JPA built the online questionnaire and helped with its distribution. MN oversaw the study in his role as director of the Department of General Medicine. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Accepted 5 December 2011
  • Published Online First 2 January 2012


Context French interns in general practice are, like all medical students, exposed to medical errors during their training.

Objective To measure the professional and personal impact of medical errors on French general practitioner (GP) trainees.

Design, setting and participants Quantitative and qualitative study of medical errors and GP trainees enrolled at Paris Diderot University.

Method An online anonymous questionnaire was sent to all GP trainees at Paris Diderot University and recorded semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 volunteers.

Results 70 of the 392 (18%) interns contacted replied to the questionnaire and 10 semi-structured interviews were then conducted. 97% of the participants had already made a medical error. Even with the extreme, conservative assumption that non-respondents would have reported no errors, the prevalence of self-reported medical errors in the whole sample would still have been 17%. 64% said they were at least strongly affected by their error and 74% made constructive changes to their work after the error. The interns revealed that the emotional impact of their errors were great with feelings such as guilt that could remain for more than 2 years after the event. 33% would have liked to talk more about the circumstances of their error with their superior. Most interns suggest more training on medical errors and more open-minded discussion when the error actually happens rather than formal training at the university.

Conclusion Medical errors remain a sensitive subject that is not broached enough in our university but interns need to talk about their experiences with their peers to improve risk management and prevent the recurrence of new errors.


  • Linked articles 000605, 000084.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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