Home E-Weekly February 6, 2018

Is Your Staff Suffering From Second Victim Syndrome?

Published: February 6, 2018

SUFFER IN SILENCE Many caregivers suffer the effects of traumatic events in silence and need support from peers and leaders.

A disastrous clinical outcome or medical error can traumatize the doctor or nurse involved in the care — a phenomenon known as second victim syndrome. Second victims feel as though they personally failed the patient. They might have difficulty sleeping, reduced job satisfaction, and guilt and anxiety (including fear of litigation or job loss) — all of which affect medical judgment, according to a recent safety advisory from The Joint Commission that encourages healthcare organizations to support second victims as soon as possible after an adverse event occurs.

Because caregivers have no one they can turn to for support or guidance in the face of the poor outcome or medical error, many suffer an intense period of professional and personal anguish in silence, says the advisory. Left untreated, a second victim compromise patient safety.

"For some, recurrent memories of the event contribute to burnout, depression and suicidal ideation," reads the advisory. "Contributing to the trauma is the potential for isolation from colleagues, who may avoid the healthcare worker. During the months that follow an adverse event, the healthcare worker may experience characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder."

The advisory also includes information on implementing a "second victim program" to help affected staff members.

Many healthcare professionals say they don't look for help after an adverse event because of the stigma surrounding it, so you should educational your OR team members about second victim syndrome. The campaign should include information on what they might experience as second victims and how they can seek support, says the advisory.

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