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Common Responses and Symptoms

Common Responses and Symptoms

Distressed caregivers follow predictable patterns of worrying about:

Is the patient/family okay?
What have they been told?
How did they respond?

Will I be fired? (Nursing and allied health professionals)
Will I be sued? (Medical staff)
Will I lose my license? (All professional groups)

What will my colleagues think?
Will I ever be trusted again?
Will I still be a respected member of my team?

Next Steps
Who will contact me to discuss the case?
If a lawsuit does happen, when will I know? How will I hear about it?
What do I need to do?

Common Phrases
“I had a sickening realization of what happened.”
“I don't deserve to be a doctor.”
“This will change the way I come to work from now on.”
“This has been a career-changing event.”
“I came to work today to help someone, not to hurt them.”
“This is a turning point in my career.”
“This event shook me to my core. I’ll never be the same again.”

Signs and Symptoms
Second victims experience various physical and psychosocial symptoms. These symptoms are normal reactions to an abnormal and unanticipated patient event or outcome.

Common reactions reported by distressed caregivers include the following symptoms:

  • Physical

    Sleep disturbances
    Difficulty concentrating
    Eating disturbances
    Nausea or vomiting
    Rapid heart rate
    Rapid breathing
    Muscle tension
  • Psychological Symptoms

    Uncomfortable returning to work
    Anger and irritability
    Extreme sadness
    Self doubt
    Feeling numb

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