Secondary traumatization in pediatric healthcare providers: compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress

Omega (Westport). 2009;60(2):103-28. doi: 10.2190/om.60.2.a.


The primary aim for this research was to explore the overlap and differences between the concepts related to secondary traumatization: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), secondary traumatic stress (STS), compassion fatigue (CF), and burnout (BRN). A secondary aim for this research was to examine the impact of secondary traumatization and some of the personal and professional elements that affect how pediatric healthcare providers experience PTSD, STS, CF, and BRN. An online survey was sent via e-mail to numerous list serves for healthcare providers who had worked on PICU, NICU, or PEDS units within the last year. The analyses revealed that a significant overlap existed between the terms of STS, PTSD, BRN, CS, and CF for PICU, NICU, and PEDS providers. However, a hierarchical linear regression revealed a significant amount of unique contributions to the variance in CF based on each of the measured concepts. Despite previous literature that indicates that the terms STS and CF can be used interchangeably, the two most prominent measures utilized in the assessment of CF and STS are actually capturing at least some unique elements. Given these results, future researchers should examine and conceptualize the difference in etiology, prevalence, symptoms, and treatment efficacy for CF and STS as separate but related entities and then return their focus to understanding secondary traumatization in healthcare providers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allied Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Burnout, Professional / diagnosis
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Empathy*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Health
  • Prevalence
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • United States
  • Workplace / psychology