Dr. Susan Scott – Nurse Scientist & Patient Safety Expert – The Second Victim Phenomenon, The Impact of Trauma on Clinicians, and Building Resiliency through Self-Care Systems


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In this episode, our guest is Dr. Susan Scott, a nurse scientist and patient safety expert from University of Missouri Health Care. Scott shares her research and personal experiences with the second victim phenomenon, the impact of trauma on a clinician’s work, strategies to support clinicians after traumatic events, and ways to combat burnout and low morale on a personal and institutional level.
Understanding the Second Victim Phenomenon
Scott has spent decades studying an often-overlooked topic – clinicians who experience trauma from a medical error or unexpected outcome in their job known as the “Second Victim Phenomenon.” Scott shares the impact of these events on clinicians and three possible responses as a clinician tries to heal.
How Trauma Impacts Work
An important step in reaction to a second victim event is emotional first aid, which Scott found that only 15% of care providers will ask for help on their own. The simplest solution is implementing a peer support model. Scott explains that even though some may not think of these events as typical physical trauma cases, psychological trauma can be particularly dangerous because it goes unnoticed.
How Dr. Scott Developed a Passion for the Second Victim
Scott shares her own traumatic second victim experience just a few weeks into her first role as a newly graduated nurse, and the lack of tools she was given to process it. She never imagined her career moving in that direction, but the study of this phenomenon quickly became what she now describes as her life’s work.
The Role of a Patient Safety Officer
Before she became a Patient Safety Officer, Scott worked as a Legal Nurse Consultant helping defense teams look at medical records and support clinical staff. Although a short part of her career, it prepared her well for the patient safety roles and gave her the opportunity to advance the science while working at University of Missouri Health Care.
Building Resiliency with Self-Care and Institutional Care
With nurse burnout and morale at a low point during the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott shares the importance of not just self-care practices but also the role of institutions caring for their employees. The systems that institutions put in place can either promote or discourage staff resiliency and care.

Humans in Healthcare is produced by Shearwater Health in Nashville, TN, and hosted by Chief Marketing Officer, Nathan King.
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19 episodes