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Building Physician Resilience to Second Victim Syndrome: A Positive Psychology Approach

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By Scott Clewis

In the aftermath of a medical error or adverse event, physicians can experience a range of unproductive negative thoughts and emotions, as well as psychologically and emotionally debilitating symptoms, generally referred to as second victim syndrome (SVS). The literature in positive psychology suggests that there are numerous evidence-based interventions related to managing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that can help mitigate against adverse psychological consequences when confronting negative events. This paper hypothesizes that by arming medical students, residents, and established physicians with five science-based resilience interventions related to cognitive and emotional regulation, they will be better equipped to maintain resilience, or perhaps even thrive, in the face of medical errors and adverse events, thereby preventing or mitigating against the severe consequences of SVS.

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