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The Need for Peer Responder Programs

Doctor looking down with hand covering mouth

Following a stressful patient-related event, health care professionals can feel personally responsible for the patient’s outcome (even if they are not), feel that they have failed the patient, and second-guess their clinical skills and knowledge. As with other types of traumatic experiences, being a second victim carries the risk of both physical and psychological problems.

Events that Peer Support Can Address

  • Medical errors
  • Unexpected patient death or injury
  • Preventable complications
  • Unplanned transfer to a higher level of care
  • “Near-misses”
  • Breach of patient privacy
  • Any particularly troubling patient case that makes you feel uneasy, even when care delivery is excellent. This includes troubling or difficult care decisions, communication issues and complex situations.

Physical Symptoms of Second Victims

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle tension

Psychological Symptoms of Second Victims

  • Isolation
  • Frustration
  • Fear
  • Grief or remorse
  • Discomfort returning to work
  • Anger and irritability
  • Depression
  • Extreme sadness
  • Self-doubt
  • Flashbacks

More about Second Victims and RISE


“It was the first time that I had the opportunity to talk about the situation that I was involved in…I was able ‘unload’ a burden I had been carrying for 10 years… Being able to share my personal feelings and how it affected my life was extremely helpful. For me this provided closure. I didn’t realize what a difference having this conversation would make in my life…RISE doesn’t only address new or recent events but something that they may be carrying from the past.”
- Michele Fuller, R.N.

“I became a responder to help assist the many health care providers who believe they must suffer the effects of a stressful event in silence and in isolation.”
- Kristin Marcantonio M.S., R.N.

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