What is Second Victim Syndrome?

When an unexpected or traumatic clinical event happens, most health care providers adjust well to the multitude of demands they encounter. Providers often have strong emotional defenses that carry them through and let them "get the job done." Yet sometimes, the emotional aftershock (or stress reaction) can be difficult and may last a few days, a few weeks, a few months or longer. 

This creates the Second Victim Syndrome, in which healthcare providers also become “victims” of the event, traumatized to the point where they may not be able to effectively do their work.

About You Matter

At Children’s, we want to care for those who care for others. Our You Matter program, providing support for our physicians, is an important component in doing just that. We understand that our caregivers are dedicated to doing the very best for our patients and their families every day. So when an unanticipated adverse event happens, You Matter resources are available to ensure that our dedicated colleagues receive the help and support that allow them to recover emotionally and remain a valued team members. 

The You Matter program includes the following components:

Awareness Training

Children’s is working to raise awareness about Second Victim Syndrome by presenting on the topic to medical staff in awareness trainings offered in a variety of forums, including Grand Rounds and Division meetings. After completing an awareness training session, attendees should have a better understanding of the Second Victim Syndrome and should feel empowered to reach out to their peers. An attendee may also decide whether he or she is interested in becoming a Peer Supporter, a more formalized way that Children’s staff can volunteer to offer support to their colleagues. Check out the Physician Wellness calendar to learn more about upcoming awareness training events. 

View Physician Wellness calendar

Peer Supporter Training

Peer Supporters attend an additional one-hour training session, preparing them to provide comfort and care to their colleagues when an event happens. If you are interested in becoming a Peer Supporter, contact YouMatter@choa.org

Additional Support

Understanding that physicians may need additional support beyond the Peer Supporter element of the program, the You Matter team has identified numerous internal and external support resources.

Resources for medical staff members

External resources

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about Second Victim Syndrome? There are a number of reports, white papers and other articles that have been compiled on the topic. We have included a selection of resources here:

Albert W. Wu, MD, MPH, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research, coined the term “Second Victim” in 2000. 

Children’s physician Kurt Heiss, MD, is passionate about Second Victims and has been a driver in establishing the You Matter program here. He has co-authored several articles on the topic, including:

Susan D. Scott, PHD, RN, CPPS, a patient safety officer at the University of Missouri, has established a vibrant Second Victim program at that institution and has been an important adviser to the development and introduction of the Children’s You Matter program. She has published, or been quoted in, a number of articles about the issue:

Caring for our own: deploying a systemwide Second Victim rapid response team
Scott SD1, Hirschinger LE, Cox KR, McCoig M, Hahn-Cover K, Epperly KM, Phillips EC, Hall LW

Too Many Abandon the “Second Victims” of Medical Errors by Matthew Grissinger, RPh, FASCP 

Alleviating "Second Victim" Syndrome: How We Should Handle Patient Harm by Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality