The Second Victim Phenomenon: The Way Out

The Second Victim Phenomenon: The Way Out

Paraskevi K. Skourti (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece) and Andreas Pavlakis (Neapolis University Pafos, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2337-6.ch008
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Medical error happens when an action within the medical field is not fulfilled as planned, or the plan is performed incorrectly. Patient and family are the first victim of an adverse event. The damage in a patient's health, leads in a distressing situation not only for the patient, but also for the clinician who is responsible for this outcome. The term “second victim” refers to the trauma that a health professional sustains due to a serious adverse event in the healthcare system. After a medical error the caregivers are experiencing the aftermath in their personal and professional life. They feel isolated and abandoned, and some of them are coming up against the law with penal and disciplinary ramifications as a consequence of the blame culture in the health care system. Some health professionals experienced the consequences of an unfortunate incident even if it did not lead in harm to the patient's health.
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The main issue resulting from the second victim phenomenon is the need for a structured peer or institutional support for the clinician. A poorly-structured or non-existent support system may result in a professional becoming a second victim following an adverse event (Ullstrom, Sachs, Hansson, Ovretveit, & Brommels, 2014). The support system should include guidelines and educational programming to practice disclosing skills (Wu, Boyle, Wallace, & Mazor, 2013).

Tort reform could change the blame culture in healthcare organizations, which intensifies the second victim phenomenon. Tort reform is key to rendering functional programs (Catino, 2009). A clinician will not seek support if there is uncertainty surrounding legal protection (de Wit, Marks, Nattermann, & Wu, 2013). Education for clinicians and information for patients could strengthen this aim. Tort reform could decrease defensive medicine because it is the major cause of it (Hermer & Brody, 2010). These reforms could achieve cost containment in healthcare by reducing litigation and compensation expenses, reducing costs from defensive behavior, and avoiding expenditures for the clinician’s treatment and rehabilitation.

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