Action after adverse events – the second victims need help too

Patient safety incidents are common in healthcare even that patient safety has been a priority for many years in healthcare. It is estimated that every tenth patient faces harm during their care. This means huge amount of human suffering, financial lost, and unfavorable impact on effectiveness of healthcare services.

The harm is not restricted just to the patients and their families, the first victims of adverse events. The harm reaches also the second victims. Who are they? And how do they suffer? The second victims can be described as healthcare staff members, providers, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, and many others – actually anyone who has affected by an adverse event. So healthcare students, if and when they witness or cause harm for a patient, are second victims too. The consequences for the second victims include psychological, emotional, physiological, financial and overall, livelihood related harm.

In recent years, organizational second victim support has been under development in healthcare organisations, but the situation of the healthcare education is not so clear. Second victim phenomenon has so severe consequences that it is extremely important for the healthcare education institutes to consider adding the element in to the curricula. The students need to learn about the phenomenon and for example how to support their colleagues in such situations. Furthermore, the schools should provide second victim support for the students. The students need to learn to use the support and learn that the professionals need help too when their patients are harmed. It is professional to support and be supported.


Burlison, J.D., Scott, S.D., Browne, E.K., Thompson, S.G. & Hoffman, J.M. (2014). The Second Victim Experience and Support Tool: Validation of an Organizational Resource for Assessing Second Victim Effects and the Quality of Support Resources. Journal of Patient Safety, 13(2), 93–102.

McVeety, J., Keeping-Burke, L., Harrison, M.B., Godfrey, C. & Ross-White, A. (2014). Patient and family member perspectives of encountering adverse events in health care: a systematic review. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews & Implementation Reports, 12(7), 315–373.

Scott, S.D., Hirschinger, L.E., Cox, K.R., McCoig, M.M., Hahn-Cover, K., Epperly, K.M., … Hall, L.W. (2010). Caring for our own: Deploying a systemwide second victim rapid response team. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, 36(5), 233−40.



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