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Qualitative Study About the Experiences of Colleagues of Health Professionals Involved in an Adverse Event

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Abstract

Objectives

Identify what occurs among health-care providers (HCPs) after an adverse event (AE) and what colleagues could do to help them.

Method

A qualitative study with participation by physicians and nurses from hospitals and primary care facilities.

Results

Fifteen HCPs and 12 health professionals with quality management responsibilities with between 8 and 30 years of experience participated; 15 (56%) were physicians (9 general practitioners, 3 surgeons, 2 intensivists, and 1 from an emergency unit), and 12 (44%) were nurses (5 worked in primary care and 7 in hospitals). There was consensus that second victims require support from colleagues and management; however, instead, many times they perceive rejection. They experience repetitive thoughts, fear, and loneliness. Formal channels of information favor the implementation of improvements. Health-care providers reported that information about measures for preventing a new adverse event is inaccessible, whereas management said that a change in behavior was necessary to promote a culture of safety. Common informal channels were the hallways and cafeteria. Reactions by colleagues of second victims were of surprise and to avoid involvement.

Conclusions

Organized plans and protocols about what to do to help HCPs after an AE are uncommon. Formal channels of information mitigate rumors and misinformation. Informal channels hinder learning from the experience and strengthening the culture of safety, and they encourage incidents to be hidden. Approaches that permit HCPs involved in an AE to speak about what has happened offer a positive response to their emotional needs.

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