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Seek Professional Support for Second Victim Syndrome

February 21, 2019

Fear of stigma, lack of confidentiality, and worry that they would have to report counseling on their license renewal applications are common reasons physicians fail to obtain necessary mental health treatment. To overcome these barriers and support clinicians dealing with second victim syndrome, organizations should promote the idea that seeking support is not a sign of weakness. To do so is a smart, responsible move.

Clinicians who need professional counseling, guidance referrals, one-on-one interactions, mentoring, or group debriefing should have the institutional support to pursue them. By helping clinicians deal with second victim syndrome, organizations can help mitigate the effects of second victim syndrome and prevent physician burnout.

Developing Organizational Resources

Physicians can work within their organizations to develop programs that promote professional support. The following resources can help an organization develop such programs.

Litigation Stress Resources

Physicians need to recognize their vulnerability to medical board action and litigation stress, and actively seek the support they need. Administrators should also be sensitive to exacerbating burnout, second victim syndrome, and litigation stress symptoms when initiating actions against physician privileges due to an unanticipated outcome.

NORCAL Group Litigation Support for Health Care Professionals
NORCAL Group insureds can access litigation support materials in MyACCOUNT (log in at the top of the page) under the “Claims” link. The materials include a series of articles addressing the litigation process:

  1. How to Prepare for Your Initial Meeting
  2. Understanding the Litigation Process
  3. How to Prepare for Your Deposition
  4. How to Prepare for Your Trial
  5. How to Prepare for Your Deposition (Non-Defendant Witness)

Litigation Stress Coaching
To provide our insureds with the necessary information and resources to help with the stress of a malpractice lawsuit, NORCAL is partnering with Winning Focus, a company providing Litigation Stress Coaching. Litigation stress coaching provides defendants with tools that empower them to deal effectively with the stress associated with a medical malpractice lawsuit, enabling them to more effectively participate in their own defense. If you feel you would benefit from litigation stress coaching, contact your NORCAL Claims Specialist or defense counsel.

Physician Litigation Stress Resource Center
The Physician Litigation Stress Resource Center is a centralized resource for physicians and other health care professionals going through litigation.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Physician suicide rates are higher than suicide rates in the general population, even though they are likely underreported. Yet physician suicide is still a taboo topic in our society. Thankfully, help exists for those at risk, and confidential resources are available.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at
Free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress, or for those who are helping a person in crisis.

United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) National Helpline
Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA is a free and confidential referral and information service with support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

NORCAL Group Webinar: What We Have Learned About Physician Suicides And Responsive Measures
It has been known for decades that, compared with other professionals, physicians have a markedly increased propensity to die by suicide. It is believed that because of clinicians’ knowledge of and access to lethal means, there are fewer barriers to completion of suicide in those who are predisposed. Untreated or undertreated mental illness, primarily depression, is believed to be the major predisposing factor, although substance abuse, job disillusionment and burnout, litigation, and disciplinary investigations may also be significant contributors. This webinar will raise your awareness of clinician suicidality and help prepare you to address the problem proactively.

Because Silence Is Deadening
The website of Louise B. Andrew, MD JD FACEP focuses on physicians suffering from depression, as well as those who care about them. Depression is a surprisingly common and very serious, yet frequently unrealized, diagnosis among healing professionals, and it is eminently treatable if recognized.

AMA STEPS Forward Toolkit: “Preventing Physician Distress and Suicide”
Downloadable tools to help physicians and health care organizations prevent physician distress and reduce the risk of suicide.

Filed under: Second Victim Syndrome



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