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Understanding Second Victims
Recovery Stages
High Risk Scenarios
Common Second Victim Responses
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Understanding Second Victims


Second VictimMost health care providers adjust well to the multitude of demands encountered during an unexpected or traumatic clinical event. Providers often have strong emotional defenses that carry them through and let them "get the job done." Yet sometimes the emotional aftershock (or stress reaction) can be difficult. Signs and symptoms of this emotional aftershock may last a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or longer.

Second victims are "healthcare providers who are involved in an unanticipated adverse patient event, medical error and/or a patient related injury and become victimized in the sense that the provider is traumatized by the event."

Frequently, second victims...

  • Feel personally responsible for the unexpected patient outcomes.
  • Feel as though they have failed the patient.
  • Second-guess their clinical skills.
  • Second-guess their knowledge base.

Second Victim Fast Facts

  • Each second victim (even those involved in the same event) will have unique experiences and needs.
  • Regardless of job title, providers respond in predictable manners. The six stages of second victim recovery explain how the second victim is impacted by the clinical event.
  • There are some events that are high risk for inducing a second victim  response.
  • First tendency of providers is self isolation.
  • Providers tend to 'worry' in a predictable pattern.
  • Sometimes the entire team is impacted by a clinical event.

Read Tony's story...




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