Medical Error 'Second Victims' Get Some Help, Finally
It's not always the caregiver who does something wrong to a patient who needs help. Often, it may be the impact of the unexpected death of a patient that someone got close to.
The volunteers try to cover every shift or unit within the seven-facility system through a 24-hour pager number, especially in "high-risk areas" such as intensive care units. Many have been second victims themselves.
Scott found that unexpected deaths of other hospital workers hit many of their colleagues hard. There was the young surgery tech who had leg pain in the morning, a pulmonary embolism in the afternoon, and was brain dead the next day. The tech's own team harvested her organs for transplant.
Or when the hospital helicopter crashed, giving two crew members that the staff knew well "career-ending injuries."
There were grief-stricken staff left behind, one lamenting that he had traded his shift with one of the victims, she recalls.
In mid 2011, Wu launched a similar program called the RISE (Resiliency In Stressful Events) Team, a crew of about 30 volunteers at Johns Hopkins. It started out as strictly a program for pediatric caregivers, and got some funding from the Josie King Foundation.
Wu says that Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston are developing similar programs, as is Stanford University Hospital. A few others are in the works.
I asked Wu and Scott if healthcare workers, especially those working with daily life and death hospital dramas, shouldn't be capable of dealing with these events. I'd always been told that that nurses and doctors, especially those working in medical and surgical intensive care units, had to be "hard core" because that's where many patients die.<
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