Secondary traumatic stress among physiatrists treating trauma patients

Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2019 Mar 26;32(2):209-214. doi: 10.1080/08998280.2018.1559694. eCollection 2019 Apr.


Secondary traumatic stress is a form of posttraumatic stress disorder resulting from exposure to others' acute serious physical harm or death, regardless of mechanism. However, the incidence of secondary traumatic stress among physiatrists remains unexplored. This study examined relationships with secondary traumatic stress among physiatrists. Surveys were distributed to members of the Association of Academic Physiatry and local physiatrists. Surveys included measures of secondary traumatic stress, resilience, personality factors, demographics, and work-related factors. Of 102 surveys returned, 88 were complete and included for analysis. The sample was 42 ± 11 years and included 45 women (51%). Moderate to severe levels of secondary traumatic stress were found in 26 (30%) respondents, and 45% reported clinical levels of at least one symptom cluster. Higher resilience, higher extraversion, and higher emotional stability were associated with significantly lower odds of positive secondary traumatic stress screens and lower symptom severity (all P < 0.023). In conclusion, a third of responding physiatrists reported moderate to severe symptoms of secondary traumatic stress-a rate consistent with previous research among clinicians in a trauma setting and higher than the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder in the general population. Resilience-building interventions for secondary traumatic stress are likely to improve the well-being of physiatrists.

Keywords: Injury; physiatrists; secondary traumatic stress.