Errornomics: Why We Make Mistakes and What We Can Do To Avoid Them
- By Joseph T Hallinan (£8.99 Ebury Press, 2009)
- Reviewed by Dr Matthew Sargeant, consultant psychiatrist and clinical human factors group member
I learnt so much from this easy-to-read, enjoyable little book. Why We Make Mistakes is available as paper book, ebook or audio book. How we look at things without seeing, forget things in seconds, and are all pretty sure we are way above average are the themes. Such themes are of immediate contemporary clinical relevance to practice and comprehensively described.
The book is good for everyone, whether on a course on clinical human factors or not. For more than 20 years Hallinan, a journalist, collected many errors and obtained comments from academics who study various aspects of human performance and psychology related to human error-making. There are many helpful references, a guide to chapters and footnotes.
The book is an invaluable primer for academic literature for human factors/ergonomics terminology. Grouped deceptively simply under 13 chapters, we are told making fewer mistakes is not easy, especially if the reader merely desires to do so without reflection. Hallinan urges: put effort into thinking of the small things we do and do not do, for the consequences are big.
We are told making fewer mistakes is not easy, especially if the reader merely desires to do so without reflection
To improve patient safety with the very next patient you manage, read the book. The book advises team members to work together, to communicate and to have a supportive and accessible attitude to reduce error in team members. Clinicians are also advised to look up at the organisation they are working in for the sources of errors, as well as down at what they are doing. Clinicians are also told to avoid multitasking.
The book implies that designing, investigating, delivering and managing clinical care are onerous responsibilities to promote patient safety. The book is a lifeline for all medical students and doctors who make the plaintive cry “why don’t they teach us about human factors”. If there are any non-believers about human fallibility out there it will help them too. Patients could help too by reading the book to [help] their clinicians.
Hallinan tells us confidence and expertise attained through years of practice and study can be a major context of error. We are all fallible, the book says. To err is, indeed, human. Clinicians, buy it: be a good doctor and make patients safer. Patients: buy it and help your doctor deliver to you safer clinical care.