Physicians should be encouraged to discuss with family, friends, and colleagues the range of feelings that could occur—for example, sadness, fear, guilt, or anger—in response to an adverse event. (Any discussions of feelings should be distinguished from discussion of the facts surrounding patient care and the adverse event, which are confidential.) Unfortunately, there is minimal protected time for clinicians to comprehend and process an unanticipated or adverse event before moving on to their other responsibilities. The strategic placement of trained peers allows for real-time emotional support for clinicians and maximizes the limited time physicians have available.
Training peer counselors in listening and supportive skills enables the organization to bring focus to the second victim’s emotional response and not just the details of the event. By providing these opportunities for clinicians to address their feelings about the adverse event, the organization can help mitigate the effects of second victim syndrome and prevent physician burnout. The following resources can be used to help develop a model of peer support.
A Team Approach to Emotional Support
A team approach can be a key component in emotional support.
Second Victim Support: Implications for Patient Safety Attitudes and Perceptions advocates for emotional and social support of the team in an evidence-based infrastructure to enhance patient-safety culture.
Stages of Recovery for Second Victims
A support system with (brief) relief of patient care duties while providing peer support, feedback, and access to professionals can be helpful for recovery.
Second Victims: Support for Clinicians Involved in Errors and Adverse Events describes and discusses the six stages of recovery after an adverse event.
After an Adverse Event: Peer Support Program Offers Help describes the benefits of a peer support program for clinicians, staff, and patients.
Benefits of Peer Support Programs
Supporting Our Second Victim Colleagues: The Case for Peer Support Programs in Healthcare outlines Johns Hopkins Hospital’s peer support program, the RISE Team: Resiliency In Stressful Events.