The “Second Victims” in Nursing

Tears rolled down my face as I came across an article written 2 years ago. A veteran pediatric nurse took her own life several months after administering a fatal overdose of an electrolyte to an infant. After investigations and undisclosed reasons, the hospital terminated the nurse’s employment after 27 years of service and dedication to the profession she truly loved. To further satisfy the state licensing disciplinary actions, she agreed to pay a fine and  undergo a 4-year probationary period. She would be supervised at any future nursing job when she gave medication. She even successfully completed a course to qualify as a flight nurse. Yet countless efforts did not produce any job offers, increasing her despair and isolation. A friend said, “She cried for weeks. Not just because she lost her job; she lost a child.” No one knows all the details that led to the nurse taking her own life. The reality is, the healthcare industry, I believe, is not set up to provide personal, psychological, and social  support to the “second victim” of medication errors. The first victims are the patients who were harmed and their families. Nurses are the providers of care and support for  patients. But who supports and advocates for nurses? Nursing, as noble as this profession may be, can also be a lion’s den. When mistakes happen, we are urged to “write it up,” appear in front of a committee, get judged, and God only knows what else. Then, labeled as “incompetent,”  an unseen force can immediately make the second victim even terrified to go back to work, adding to the feeling...