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The » Institute of Medicine’s report “To Err is Human” estimated that errors cause 44,000 to 98,000 deaths annually in the United States, with a total cost of between $17 and $29 billion each year. » Recent studies [72 KB] show that serious adverse events occur in one out of seven patients. Respectful management of adverse events should therefore be a high priority for hospital management.

When a patient safety incident occurs, a » white paper of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement states that the organization has three specific priorities. The first priority is to care for the patient and his or her family members who are the direct victims of the adverse event. The second priority is to care for front-line health care workers involved in or exposed to the event. These individuals can be referred to as “second victims”, a term first introduced by professor » Albert Wu in 2000. The third priority is to address the needs of the organization, which can also suffer a potential loss from the incident, becoming a third victim.

Every health care worker can become a second victim: nurses, physicians, pharmacists, social services, physiotherapists,... It is estimated that almost 50% of all healthcare providers are a second victim at least once in their career! Second victims need emotional and professional support from colleagues and supervisors, so that the occurrence of patient safety incidents results in constructive changes in practice.

The international leadership regarding this subject lies with the » Institute for Healthcare Improvement and » MITSS.