Nurses' Silence: Understanding the Impacts of Second Victim Phenomenon among Israeli Nurses

Healthcare (Basel). 2023 Jul 7;11(13):1961. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11131961.


Introduction: The 'second victim' phenomenon, (SVP) refers to a health professional who was involved in an adverse event (AE) and continues to suffer from the event to the detriment of personal and professional functioning. The second victims' natural history of recovery model predicts stages of the phenomenon from AE occurrence until the 'moving on' stage and serves as a suitable structure for many organizational support programs worldwide.

Purpose: Using the second victims' natural history of recovery model to examine the impact of the SVP on Israeli nurses, with a specific focus on the organizational support they felt they required compared with the support they felt that they had received from their organizations.

Methods: Fifteen in-depth interviews were conducted, using a semi-structured questionnaire, among nurses who had experienced the SVP. The interviews were recorded subject to the interviewees' consent, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Findings: Throughout all six stages of recovery, all interviewees reported physical and emotional manifestations following exposure to an AE, regardless of the type of event or severity. They also reported difficulty in emotion regulation, as well as damage to functioning and overall quality of life. Most of the nurse interviewees reported a need to share the events with someone, but, despite this desire to receive appropriate support, almost none of them proactively requested help from a professional source, nor did their organizational management initiate proactive support. This lack of referral for further assistance is possibly explained through limited awareness of the SVP as a valid response to an AE, a perceived lack of legitimacy to receive organizational support, and personal barriers that accompany the phenomenon.

Conclusions: Appropriate organizational support, offered proximal to an AE as well as over time, is essential for the nurse, the patient, and the organization. Personal barriers, together with limited awareness, may challenge the identification and provision of appropriate assistance. Hence, it is important to address the phenomenon as part of the general organizational policy to improve the quality of care and patient safety.

Keywords: barriers; nurse; organizational support; quality of care; second victim phenomenon.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.