The second victim in modern healthcare
First do no harm. It’s one of the fundamental rules, but what experienced clinician has not, at least once, done some harm? Medicine is intricate, and imperfect, with increasing number of diseases and disease processes occurring in complex people within a multifaceted world. The tests we use are not perfect and the decisions we make every day are innumerable—and we can do harm.
So lets face this straight on—and talk about the domino effect of medical error. First, as should be, are the patients and their families. The next are “second victims“1 —those clinicians who feel “personally responsible for the unexpected patient outcomes and feel as though they have failed their patient, second-guessing their clinical skills and knowledge base.”2 This is common—nearly three out of four of us may be affected.3 Finally, the third victim is the organisation where the error occurred.
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