Aarhus University Seal

The concept of errors in medical education: a scoping review

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review

  • Liv Dyre, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Lawrence Grierson, McMaster University
  • ,
  • Kasper Møller Boje Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Charlotte Ringsted
  • Martin G. Tolsgaard, University of Copenhagen

The purpose of this scoping review was to explore how errors are conceptualized in medical education contexts by examining different error perspectives and practices. This review used a scoping methodology with a systematic search strategy to identify relevant studies, written in English, and published before January 2021. Four medical education journals (Medical Education, Advances in Health Science Education, Medical Teacher, and Academic Medicine) and four clinical journals (Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Annals of Surgery, and British Medical Journal) were purposively selected. Data extraction was charted according to a data collection form. Of 1505 screened studies, 79 studies were included. Three overarching perspectives were identified: ‘understanding errors’) (n = 31), ‘avoiding errors’ (n = 25), ‘learning from errors’ (n = 23). Studies that aimed at’understanding errors’ used qualitative methods (19/31, 61.3%) and took place in the clinical setting (19/31, 61.3%), whereas studies that aimed at ‘avoiding errors’ and ‘learning from errors’ used quantitative methods (‘avoiding errors’: 20/25, 80%, and ‘learning from errors’: 16/23, 69.6%, p = 0.007) and took place in pre-clinical (14/25, 56%) and simulated settings (10/23, 43.5%), respectively (p < 0.001). The three perspectives differed significantly in terms of inclusion of educational theory: ‘Understanding errors’ studies 16.1% (5/31),’avoiding errors’ studies 48% (12/25), and ‘learning from errors’ studies 73.9% (17/23), p < 0.001. Errors in medical education and clinical practice are defined differently, which makes comparisons difficult. A uniform understanding is not necessarily a goal but improving transparency and clarity of how errors are currently conceptualized may improve our understanding of when, why, and how to use and learn from errors in the future.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Pages (from-to)761-792
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.

    Research areas

  • Avoiding errors, Error conceptualization, Learning from errors, Medical education, Scoping review, Understanding errors

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 303473733