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Peer-to-Peer Support (Second Victim Phenomenon) - An ever-growing body of evidence demonstrates that health professionals feel emotionally distressed after a patient safety incident (PSI), and there is an emerging recognition of the potential negative impact on both the health professionals’ health and on patient safety.  As a result of this recognition, healthcare organizations are seeking ways to support health professionals who are emotionally traumatized after a PSI.

The Second Victim Phenomenon is a real and serious consequence related to health care roles.  Different studies estimate that the prevalence of the Second Victim Phenomenon ranges from 10.4% up to 43.3 %.  Although there seems to be great interest in the topic, there are very few comprehensive programs specifically designed to address second victim phenomenon with even fewer and less developed Canadian programs.

The distress caused by patient safety incidents, particularly harmful incidents can have negative effects on the care providers health and well-being and the safety of patient care.  If not addressed, the provider may suffer in silence, change their role, leave the profession and some very unfortunately, will become victims of suicide.  As a result, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) has been working to increase awareness of the second victim phenomenon and available resources. 

Recommended strategies

While provider support programs are mainly targeted at emotionally supporting health care providers that have experienced a patient safety incident, CPSI’s commitment to patient safety remains the same.  As part of a comprehensive program, there is a critical need to support patients and families on their journey from harm to healing.  Providers, patients, families and leaders are part of the same system and to do better we need to support and collaborate in a manner that allows us to maximize learning and improvement.  A provider support program will enable healthcare professionals to re-establish or improve their previous levels of work performance and improve patient safety.  Provider programs should not be designed simply to help the provider but must be designed to improve the system and help make patient care safe.  The walking wounded, the silent mistake, the loss of providers all contribute to lost opportunities for, and potential liabilities to patient safety.

Immediate care and support for patient(s), family, providers and others.