There is more than one reason why we live by the expression “patient safety first”. However, patients are not the only ones who are vulnerable in the health care system. One group that is often overlooked are nurses, doctors and pharmacists. Due to their enormous burden of responsibility, they are at risk of becoming the ”second victims” of medical tragedies.
When a medical error is made, our primary concern is always the patient. If the given medication has the wrong dosage or has been tampered with en route to the receiver, many things could happen to the patient – ranging from no response to serious injury or even death.
Of course, the latter is the worst-case scenario. But the sad truth is that it’s far from uncommon. And when a patient has a serious adverse event or dies from a medication, caretakers often blame themselves. In doing so, they become the second victims of the tragedy. The resulting trauma may be severe and lead to stress symptoms, long-term depression or even suicide.
In a recent article in The Pharmaceutical Journal, Ross Ferguson discusses the issue of dealing with and overcoming mistakes in medical workplaces such as hospitals. A task that sometimes can be overwhelming:
”In 2011, a nurse in Seattle, Canada, with 27 years’ experience, took her own life a few months after making a calculation error that led to an overdose of calcium chloride causing the death of a critically ill infant. In this case, once the error was spotted, the nurse was immediately escorted off the premises and later lost her job.”
From Ferguson’s examples – and numerous reports from hospital staff around the world – it’s safe to say that we have a long way to go when it comes to providing the right compassionate support after a mistake has been made. Healthcare is supposed to be about helping our fellow humans, whether they’re lying in a hospital bed or wearing scrubs. Or as Ferguson puts it:
“While we have an obligation to help prevent errors and learn from them, we also need to think about how we can support our colleagues emotionally and professionally when the worst happens.”
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