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

Predictable Patterns of Worrying


  • 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

  • What happens next?
  • Who will be contacting me to discuss the case?
  • If a law suit does happen, when will I know?  How will I hear about it?
  • What do I need to do?

Common Phrases heard from Second Victims

  • "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'm going to check out my options at Wal-Mart. I can't mess that up!"
  • "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 Suggestive of a Second Victim Response
Second victims experience many different physical and psychosocial symptoms. These symptoms are normal reactions to an abnormal and unanticipated patient event or outcome.

Common reactions reported by second victims:

  Physical Symptoms                

  Psychological Symptoms       

Sleep disturbances   Isolation
Difficulty concentrating   Frustration
Eating disturbances   Fear
Headache   Uncomfortable returning to work
Fatigue   Anger and irritability
Nausea/vomiting   Depression
Diarrhea   Extreme sadness
Rapid heart rate   Self doubt
Rapid breathing   Flashbacks
Muscle tension   Feeling numb

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