The Joint Commission (TJC) is encouraging healthcare organizations to take steps to support "second victims," caregivers who experience psychological trauma after an unexpected death, medical error, or another type of distressing incident in the workplace.
In the aftermath of such an event, caregivers can grapple with guilt and anxiety, may have trouble sleeping, and could experience burnout or depression. In extreme cases, some develop post-traumatic stress disorder or have suicidal thoughts.
Earlier this week, TJC issued a new advisory on second victim syndrome.
“If not treated, a second victim experience can bring emotional and physical harm to our health care providers who work so hard to treat and care for patients,” said Ana Pujols McKee, MD, TJC executive vice president and chief medical officer, in the advisory. “Unfortunately, many second victims find themselves in need of support and care that many health care organizations are not prepared to provide."
Among the actions TJC recommends healthcare organizations consider is fostering a culture where mistakes can be openly discussed by all team members. This way, lessons may be learned and programs created that supplement employee assistance programs to ensure caregivers get the support they need following a traumatic event.
According to a 2012 study cited by TJC in the advisory, nearly half of healthcare workers experience second victim syndrome at least one time during their careers.
To learn more about on secondary trauma in nursing, visit the Health and Wellness section of the Strategies for Nurse Managers Reading Room. Here are a few of the articles you can find there:
Dealing with secondary trauma for mass-casualty nurses
Combating depression in nursing