Nurses as ‘second victims’ to their patients’ suicidal attempts: A mixed-method study

Anat Amit Aharon, Moor Fariba, Fridman Shoshana, Semyon Melnikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: To understand the effects of patients’ suicidal attempts and events on nurses’ second victim symptoms and to explore the association between these experiences and nurse absenteeism and turnover. Background: The term ‘second victim’ is when a healthcare professional expresses psychological symptom following adverse patient event. This has been previously shown to be associated with absenteeism and higher staff turnover. Design: A mixed-methods study with a sequential exploratory approach. Methods: A qualitative approach was used for nurses to relate their experiences of their patients’ suicidal attempts. A cross-sectional quantitative study was conducted in 150 nurses who worked in internal departments. The Second Victim Experience and Support Tool was used to substantiate and measure second victim related distress of nurses who treated suicidal patients. The qualitative data were analysed by a constant comparative analysis method. The analytic analysis of the quantitative study included Pearson's correlations and hierarchical linear regression model to assess the explanatory variables to absenteeism and staff turnover. The study adhered to the STROBE checklist for cross-sectional studies and the COREQ guidelines for qualitative studies. Results: The qualitative part identified three themes and nine sub-themes, including the new variable ‘sense of being alone’. The quantitative part of the study found that nurses expressed a medium level of second victim related distress. After controlling for demographic variables, second victim distress and the sense of being alone following patients’ suicidal events may explain nurse absenteeism and turnover. Conclusions: Nurses who experience suicidal attempts of their patients react as second victims. These symptoms lead to nurse absenteeism and turnover. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses who experience suicidal attempts of their patients need treatment and support as second victims, the same as in any other medical adverse event. The nursing leadership should emotionally support these nurses and prevent consequential staff organisational problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3290-3300
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • absenteeism
  • second victim
  • suicide patient
  • turnover


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