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Promote Patient Safety Culture to Help Address Second Victim Syndrome

Series: Second Victim Syndrome

Health care organizations bear a heavy burden in reducing physician burnout among their physicians, because the organization has the power to reduce many of the workplace stressors causing burnout. Without intervention, burnout harms physicians, creates a negative workplace culture, threatens patient safety, and increases medical liability risk exposure. Patient safety culture, also known as just culture, ensures balanced workplace accountability for individuals and the organization responsible for designing and improving systems.

Clinicians may benefit from professional counseling or guidance referrals, one-on-one interactions, mentoring or group debriefing. Organizations can offer access to these opportunities and help nurture a nonpunitive culture surrounding unanticipated outcomes that can also help physicians cope with second victim syndrome, a contributing factor in physician burnout. In a patient safety culture, quality assurance and risk management conferences focus on learning from errors instead of assigning blame.

Tying together the understanding, implementation and promotion of patient safety culture within a health care organization is an essential component for helping the physician coping process. The following resources can help a health care institution develop and implement a patient safety culture.

Safety Culture as a Patient Safety Strategy
Continued improvements in interventions in safety culture can reduce patient harm. Team training enhances communication in patient safety efforts. The research article, “Promoting a Culture of Safety as a Patient Safety Strategy: A Systematic Review” discusses the emerging evidence that supports the potential efficacy of using interventions to promote safety culture.

Implementing a Culture of Patient Safety
Committed leaders and enabled staff are needed to successfully cultivate a patient safety culture. In their Changes for Improvement module, “Develop a Culture of Safety,” the Institute for Healthcare improvement shares 10 tips for implementing a culture of patient safety. 

Understanding the Nature of “Just Culture”
“Just Culture” takes into consideration the accountability, organizational system and human behavior necessary to develop the best approach to promote safety.