Secondary Traumatic Stress in Deployed Healthcare Staff

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Abstract

Objective: Using a novel measure that integrated a range of symptoms, the present study established the degree to which deployed health care staff reported secondary traumatic stress (STS) symptoms. The present study also examined whether STS symptoms were associated with staff functioning, risk factors, and the delivery of psychotherapy techniques. Method: A cross-sectional survey was administered to 236 U.S. military health care staff deployed to Afghanistan. Linear and multiple regression analyses evaluated the relationship between STS, staff functioning, and risk factors in the combined sample of deployed staff, and the delivery of psychotherapy techniques in behavioral health staff. Results: The majority of health care staff reported few STS symptoms. STS was negatively associated with job performance and family connectedness. Exposure to combat events, professional demands, and burnout were positively associated with STS; self-care and health-promoting leadership were inversely associated with STS. In behavioral health staff, providing trauma narrative techniques was positively associated with STS. Conclusions: Although the majority of health care staff reported low STS scores, STS was inversely associated with work and family functioning. The relationship between STS symptoms and risk mitigation strategies such as self-care and health-promoting leadership suggest possible avenues of future research. Research should explore the utility of an STS measure that integrates different types of symptoms and evaluate how these symptoms influence functioning in work, family, and other domains. In addition, considering that using trauma narratives is common to several psychotherapies for posttraumatic stress disorder, the link between STS and providing this technique warrants further investigation.

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