When patients experience unexpected events, some health professionals become “second victims”. These care givers feel as though they have failed the patient, second guessing clinical skills, knowledge base and career choice. Although some information exists, a complete understanding of this phenomenon is essential to design and test supportive interventions that achieve a healthy recovery.
Scott et al., in a paper published in BMJ Quality & Safety, report interview findings with 31 second victims.
The analysis identified six stages of the second victim journey.
- chaos and accident response
- intrusive reflections
- restoring personal integrity
- obtaining emotional first aid
- moving on.
The authors defined the characteristics and typical questions second victims are desperate to have answered during these stages. Several reported that involvement in improvement work or patient safety advocacy helped them to once again enjoy their work.
The authors conclude that institutional programmes could be developed to successfully screen at-risk professionals immediately after an event, and appropriate support could be deployed to expedite recovery and mitigate adverse career outcomes.