Medical Error 'Second Victims' Get Some Help, Finally
As the new patient safety officer, she says, "One of my jobs was to work with physicians after an anticipated event, talk about what transpired, and see if there were lessons we could learn about keeping future patients safe."
She heard caregivers give "incredible details (of the incident), and at the end of the conversation I would ask, 'Well that had to be really tough. How are you doing?'
"What I wasn't prepared for was the responses. Many would just break down in tears. 'I'm not sure I even want to be a doctor anymore,' said one. 'I should go be a WalMart greeter, I can't mess that up.'
Those kinds of demeaning phrases, and you could tell they just had real visceral pain from their experience. Their whole psyche was destroyed."
Very frequently these second victims were told by hospital lawyers not to discuss what happened except to investigators. "They'd go home, pick at their food, have restless nights and many suffered from marital stress because their spouses thought their marriages were in trouble," Scott says.
Traditional employee assistance programs (EAP) are staffed by professionals who don't work in a hospital. The emotionally devastated caregiver, she found, "really wants to talk with someone who actually knows what it's like."
With help from the EAP, Scott's project has trained 99 volunteers who have helped 639 members of the staff cope with second victims. She calls it a "rapid response team for clinicians," or "emotional first aid."
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