Supporting staff who are second victims after adverse healthcare events

Nurs Manag (Harrow). 2019 Dec 2;26(6):36-43. doi: 10.7748/nm.2019.e1872. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Healthcare delivery is challenging and complex, At some point, most healthcare professionals, including nurses, will be directly or indirectly involved in adverse events, such as medication errors, patient safety incidents, witnessing adverse events and near misses. While the patient is considered the first and most important 'victim' of such events, the healthcare professional involved is often considered the 'second victim'. Second victims often experience negative psychological effects due to the event, may feel they have failed the patient and can doubt their clinical skills and knowledge base. This may lead to absenteeism and their leaving their profession. This article explores the concept of healthcare professionals as second victims, as well as the effects of adverse events on these individuals, their managers and healthcare organisations. It also details the investigation process, the healthcare professional's legal and professional responsibilities after an adverse event, and the resources and services available to support second victims.

Keywords: health and safety; never events; nurses’ wellbeing; occupational health; patient safety; patients; professional; professional issues; workforce.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Crime Victims*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological