Intended for healthcare professionals


Supporting clinicians after medical error

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 15 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1982
  1. Hanan Edrees, researcher 1,
  2. Frank Federico, executive director 2
  1. 1 Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  2. 2Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: H Edrees hedrees{at}

The needs of these “second victims” are often ignored

Clinicians who are unable to cope with their emotions after a medical error or adverse event are suffering in silence. These healthcare providers are often told to take care of the next patient without an opportunity to discuss the details of the event or share how this has affected them personally and professionally. While patients and families are the first victims of such events, we refer to the healthcare providers who are involved as the second victims.1

Second victims may feel guilt, fear, anxiety, or anger and experience social withdrawal, disturbing and troubling memories, depression, and insomnia.1 They tend to doubt their clinical skills, feel as though they have failed the patient, and worry about what their colleagues think. They are embarrassed to request emotional support and feel that the organisation has abandoned them. Often, these symptoms are experienced by not only one healthcare provider but a few members of the healthcare team who have either taken care of the patient or were …

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