To investigate the incidence and types of mistakes made in veterinary practice, and to assess the impact the mistakes had on the veterinarians involved, a questionnaire was sent in November 2002 to all the veterinary graduates of the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Liverpool in 2001. One hundred and eight (27 per cent) of 402 questionnaires were returned completed; 87 of 106 respondents (82 per cent) worked frequently or always unsupervised and only 46 (43 per cent) could always rely on support from other veterinarians in the practice. Since starting work, 82 of 105 respondents (78 per cent) stated that they had made a mistake, defined as an erroneous act or omission resulting in a less than optimal or potentially adverse outcome for a patient, and in many cases these mistakes had had a considerable emotional impact on the veterinarians involved. The survey highlights that a large number of recently graduated veterinarians work with little supervision and that many veterinarians beginning their year in practice do not always have access to assistance from other veterinary colleagues.
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