The impact of working with trauma - Risk and resilience factors among health care providers
South African Journal of Psychiatry
Department of Social Work, Wentworth Hospital, Durban, South Africa
Introduction. Health workers experience high levels of stress which may be due to aspects of the organisation, work roles, work demands, etc. Professionals who listen to patients' fear, pain, suffering and narratives of trauma may feel similiar pain, fear and suffering through a process of counter-transference or vicarious traumatisation. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may subsequently arise, including reexperiencing, avoiding and hyperarousal symptoms. This study aimed to explore whether health workers experienced any symptoms of PTSD, and their risk and resilience factors. Methods. A qualitative, explorative study was undertaken. A total sample of 6 health workers completed self-reported questionnaires and 2 additional staff were interviewed in face-to-face sessions, at Wentworth Hospital Hospital, Durban, South Africa. Results. All but 1 of the health workers did not report symptoms of PTSD or significant distress in social, occupational or other areas of functioning. Post-traumatic stress responses were reported by a few health workers. Health workers further described positive coping strategies in their work with trauma. Conclusion. The varied responses of health workers may be affected by their internal factors (allostatic load), resilience and personal trauma experiences. Reports of PTSD symptoms were minimal and may be indicative of good coping abilities among health workers in this study, or denial of the effects of trauma. These factors require further exploration in future studies with larger sample sizes. However, health institutions need to adopt proactive approaches to improve staff wellness, thereby increasing productivity and decreasing absenteeism.
absenteeism; adult; age; article; avoidance behavior; burnout; coping behavior; defense mechanism; denial; educational status; emotional stress; employment status; female; gender; health care facility; health care personnel; health hazard; human; human experiment; irritability; job stress; morality; normal human; occupational disease; patient care; personal experience; pilot study; posttraumatic stress disorder; qualitative research; risk factor; social stress