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Unmasking the self as a fallible health professional: A grounded theory study on the psychosocial process of mitigating the negative effects of shame due to mistakes Open Access


Other title
health professional
grounded theory
second victim
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Aubin, Diane L.
Supervisor and department
Sharla King, Department of Educational Psychology
Examining committee member and department
Sherry Espin, School of Nursing (Ryerson) - external
Bill Whelton, Department of Educational Psychology
Elizabeth Taylor, Department of Occupational Therapy
Patricia Boechler, Department of Educational Psychology
Jessica Van Vliet, Department of Educational Psychology
Department of Educational Psychology
Psychological Studies in Education
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This grounded theory study investigated the effect of shame on health professionals who make mistakes. Interviews with nurses, physicians, pharmacists and residents generated rich data from which to formulate a theory on the psychosocial process of making a mistake. The stories and experiences the participants shared expose a multi-faceted process that is shrouded in shame, and complicated by external and internal influences, most importantly the interactions they have with other health professionals. The theory that was developed from this study proposes a perspective on the process that challenges current ideas about how to manage mistakes in health care. The implications of the theory will be useful in helping health professionals cope with mistakes. The study also provides recommendations for individuals themselves to cope with their emotions after a mistake, for organizations to better support their staff after a mistake, and for educational institutions to better prepare health professionals for experience of making mistakes through targeted training and interprofessional education. This study therefore generates new insights into the psychosocial process of mistakes from the perspective of health professionals and grounded in the data from their stories. The findings will help health professionals better understand why they react the way they do and give them guidance for managing and coping with the shame they feel after a mistake.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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