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A qualitative study exploring risk perception in congenital cardiac surgery: the perspective of UK surgeons
journal contributionposted on 06.05.2021, 14:09 by Robyn Lotto, Sarah Seaton, Ian Jones, Attilio Lotto
Managing risk is central to clinical care, yet most research focuses on patient perception, as opposed to how risk is enacted within the clinical setting by healthcare professionals.
To explore how surgical risk is perceived, encountered, and managed by congenital cardiac surgeons.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 congenital cardiac surgeons representing every unit across England and Wales. All interviews were transcribed verbatim, with analysis based on the constant comparative approach.
Three themes were identified, reflecting the interactions between personal, institutional, and political context in which risk is encountered and managed. First, “communicating risk” highlights the complexity and variability in methods employed by surgeons to balance legal/moral obligations with parental need and expectations. Universally, surgeons described the need for flexibility in their approach in order to meet the needs of individual patients. Second, “scrutiny and accountability” captures the spectrum of opinion arising from the binary nature of the outcomes collated and the way in which they are perceived to be interpreted. Third, “nature of the job” highlights the personal and professional implications of conveying and managing risk and the impact of recent policy changes on the way this is enacted.
Variations in approaches to communicating risk demonstrate a lack of consensus, compounded by insufficient evidence to determine or monitor a “best-care” approach. With current surgical outcomes suggesting little room for increasing survival rates, future care needs should shift to the “soft skills” in order to continue to drive improvements in parental and patient experience.