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What is a second victim?

The term “second victim” was first introduced by Dr Albert Wu.1 The author described the impacts of errors and mistakes on doctors and argued that little attention had being given on physician’s welfare and on how to handle to this problem. So, for the suffering and the need for help, doctors should be considered second victims of any medical error.

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In the next years, the subject gained attention of the researchers and a growing body of evidence was collected. In 2009, Scott 2 proposed a comprehensive definition, comprising every healthcare workers and a broader range of causes of trauma:

Second victims are healthcare providers who are involved in an unanticipated adverse patient event, in a medical error and/or a patient related injury and become victimized in the sense that the provider is traumatized by the event. Frequently, these individuals feel personally responsible for the patient outcome. Many feel as though they have failed the patient, second guessing their clinical skills and knowledge base. 2

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  1. Wu AW. Medical error: The second victim. BMJ. 2000;320:726–7. 
  2. Scott SD, Hirschinger LE, Cox KR, McCoig M, Brandt J, Hall LW. The natural history of recovery for the healthcare provider “second victim” after adverse patient events. Qual Saf Heal Care. 2009;18:325–30

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