Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Supporting clinicians after medical error

Supporting “second victims” is a system-wide responsibility

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 06 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2341
  1. Kevin Stewart, clinical director, clinical effectiveness and evaluation unit1,
  2. Rebecca Lawton, professor, psychology of healthcare2,
  3. Reema Harrison, research fellow3
  1. 1Clinical Standards Department, Royal College of Physicians, London NW1 4LE, UK
  2. 2University of Leeds and Bradford Institute for Health Research, Bradford Royal Infirmary, Bradford, UK
  3. 3School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. kevin.stewart{at}

The “second victim” phenomenon—the inability of clinicians to cope with their emotions after a medical error or adverse event—can be devastating for the clinician affected.1 It also has implications for patient safety and safety culture, so responsibility for dealing with it goes beyond individual clinicians.

Second victim experiences are worse if clinicians have negative experiences of investigations or feel that they were dealt with in …

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