Unveiling the hidden struggle of healthcare students as second victims through a systematic review

José Joaquín Mira, Valerie Matarredona, Susanna Tella, Paulo Sousa, Vanessa Ribeiro Neves, Reinhard Strametz, Adriana López-Pineda

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Background: When healthcare students witness, engage in, or are involved in an adverse event, it often leads to a second victim experience, impacting their mental well-being and influencing their future professional practice. This study aimed to describe the efforts, methods, and outcomes of interventions to help students in healthcare disciplines cope with the emotional experience of being involved in or witnessing a mistake causing harm to a patient during their clerkships or training. Methods: This systematic review followed the PRISMA guidelines and includes the synthesis of eighteen studies, published in diverse languages from 2011 to 2023, identified from the databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS and APS PsycInfo. PICO method was used for constructing a research question and formulating eligibility criteria. The selection process was conducted through Rayyan. Titles and abstracts of were independently screened by two authors. The critical appraisal tools of the Joanna Briggs Institute was used to assess the risk of bias of the included studies. Results: A total of 1354 studies were retrieved, 18 met the eligibility criteria. Most studies were conducted in the USA. Various educational interventions along with learning how to prevent mistakes, and resilience training were described. In some cases, this experience contributed to the student personal growth. Psychological support in the aftermath of adverse events was scattered. Conclusion: Ensuring healthcare students’ resilience should be a fundamental part of their training. Interventions to train them to address the second victim phenomenon during their clerkships are scarce, scattered, and do not yield conclusive results on identifying what is most effective and what is not.

Original languageEnglish
Article number378
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


  • Adverse events
  • Patient safety
  • Resilience
  • Second victims
  • Students


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