Person Approach to Human Errors

The traditional, person approach, also known as the “blame and shame” approach to handling human errors has been to blame the healthcare provider who delivers care to the patient. Avoidable errors that result in serious harm to the patient inevitably produce strong emotional reactions. Unfortunately, a common human reaction when dealing with strong emotions and when something goes wrong is to find someone to blame. In the person approach, there is a temptation to assume that errors are the result of inadequate knowledge or skills, inattention, forgetfulness, laziness, clumsiness, or even negligence. In a very limited number of accidents this may be true, however; this approach overlooks the fact that overwhelming majority of human errors are committed by honest, hard-working and highly skilled individuals. Even the most conscientious and competent healthcare professionals will occasionally become victims of a particular set of circumstances that can induce catastrophic errors. The person approach to error analysis results in a very superficial analysis of events and high probability of the recurrence of errors. The basic idea behind the person approach to human errors is to find and punish the guilty person or remove him/her from the organization so that the error cannot be repeated again. Clearly, this approach is ineffective because human errors cannot be prevented by intimidating, shaming and blaming people or asking them to be more careful.

 

Person Approach to Human Errors