Medical personnel as the ‘second victim’ of an adverse medical event – narrative review
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St. Sophia Specialist Hospital, Warsaw, Poland
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Centre of Postgraduate Medical Education, Warsaw, Poland
Corresponding author
Agnieszka Gibalska-Dembek   

St. Sophia Specialist Hospital, Żelazna 90, 01-004 Warsaw, Poland
Introduction and objective:
This review aims to define the phenomenon of the ‘second victim’ in the context of adverse medical events and to assess its impact on medical personnel. The prevalence of second victim syndrome is difficult to estimate, but research suggests that it may affect between 9% – 38.7% of healthcare workers. In addition, the review focuses on analyzing support strategies for mental health and the professional effectiveness of healthcare workers.

Review methods:
The review comprised a systematic literature search in three main databases: PubMed, Web of Science, and Science Direct.

Brief description of the state of knowledge:
Research indicates that medical personnel, as the second victim, experience psychological and physical symptoms after the event, such as constant guilt, loss of faith in professional skills, depression, suicidal thoughts, and professional burnout, as well as sleep or eating disorders. The phenomenon can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Equally important, the second victim syndrome negatively affects work efficiency, and the quality of patient care and may encourage staff to practice defensive medicine, increasing the costs and risk of making further mistakes. Providing support to protect healthcare workers from the long-term effects of the syndrome is crucial.

Understanding second victim syndrome and effective support programmes are key to improving patient safety and the well-being of healthcare workers. Efforts should be undertaken by healthcare organizations in such a way as to integrate these aspects within healthcare systems.

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