Second Victims in EMS

August 4, 2015    |   By: Calevir

Being an EMS health professional often requires putting emotions aside for the sake of patients. But despite the emotional resilience that allows EMS healthcare providers to care for patients under stressful, high-stakes circumstances, sometimes an unexpected clinical event or outcome can have a heavy emotional impact.

Earlier this year, a paramedic took her life following a 25 year career in EMS:

“Really, EMS sees it all. It’s the accumulation of that exposure to trauma that gets really wearing,” Kim Gorgens said, a former paramedic and now clinical associate professor at Denver University. Gorgens said the industry must do better to recognize, and treat those who are suffering.  Read the full article.

Second victims are “Healthcare team members involved in an unanticipated patient event, a medical error and/or a patient related injury and become victimized in the sense that they are traumatized by the event.  Frequently, these individuals feel personally responsible for the patient outcome.  Many feel as though they have failed the patient, second guessing their clinical skills and knowledge base.”

Second victims may exhibit a wide variety of physical and psychosocial symptoms. Signs and symptoms of this emotional aftershock may last days, a few weeks, a few months or even longer. Many second victims feel quite vulnerable by the wide ranging symptoms and frequently express that they have never experienced such an intense emotional response in their lives.

Despite the increased understanding of the second victim phenomenon, many of today’s EMS organizations are unaware of how to act on that knowledge to support their health professionals. Therefore, many healthcare providers still suffer alone after an unanticipated clinical event. Through proper social support and guidance, EMS organizations can prevent excellent healthcare providers from experiencing long-term consequences such as prematurely leaving their chosen profession or experience prolonged professional and personal suffering.

If you are interested in learning more about implementing a second victim support framework within your health care setting, there are several resources available.

In collaboration with the University of Missouri Health System Second Victim Program, the Center for Patient Safety is pleased to host the following workshops:

September 24, 2015 from 7:30-3pm

September 3, 2015 12:00-1:00


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