PTSD in South African anaesthetists after experiencing a death on the theatre table

Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, emotional impact, patient death, anaesthetist

Abstract

Background: A death on the table affects the anaesthetist emotionally and can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Management strategies such as debriefings are not applied regularly. We determined the prevalence of probable PTSD after a death on the table, whether anaesthetists were debriefed and if they had time off after the event.

Methods: A quantitative observational, cross-sectional study with convenience sampling using an online questionnaire was conducted. The impact of events scale-revised was used to measure the likelihood of PTSD. Demographic data, qualifications, years of experience and data regarding debriefings after the event were also collected. The study population comprised anaesthetists registered with the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) who experienced a death on the table.

Results: Of 1 859 potential participants who were contacted, 453 responded (24.4% response rate). The final analysis included 375 completed questionnaires, with 108 (28.8%) respondents having a probable diagnosis of PTSD. Age, experience, level of qualification and workplace did not affect the likelihood of developing PTSD. Only 15.5% of the respondents were debriefed. Of those with probable PTSD, 92.6% would have wanted debriefing, 85.2% would have liked time off and 82.4% felt the event influenced their work decisions. Corresponding figures in respondents without PTSD were 77.9%, 61.0% and 67.0%, respectively.

Conclusion: The prevalence of probable PTSD following a death on the table was high and debriefings were rarely done. We recommend the development of workplace protocols to facilitate emotional wellbeing.

The full articles is available at https://doi.org/10.36303/SAJAA.2020.26.6.2386

Author Biographies

J J S van Niekerk, University of the Free State

Department of Anaesthesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa

J Lemmer-Malherbe, University of the Free State

Department of Anaesthesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa

M Nel, University of the Free State

Deparment of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa

Published
2020-11-19
Section
Original Research