Public health professionals care for people affected by catastrophic and chronic illness, medical emergencies, trauma, violence, fear, poverty, depression, hopelessness, helplessness and a myriad of other physical and mental health challenges. As a result, the question is not whether stress will appear as a result of this exposure, but to what extent (Wicks, 2006).
When measured with the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS), criteria for a PTSD-like diagnosis were met by 15.2% of social workers (Bride, 2007), 16.3% of oncology staff (Quinal et al., 2009), 19% of substance abuse counselors (Bride et al., 2009), 20.8% of providers treating family or sexual violence (Choi, 2011), and 32.8% of emergency nurses (Dominguez-Gomez and Rutledge, 2009).
It’s time to stop talking about the “cost of caring” and start alleviating the strain on professionals who devote their careers to healing.
Our nation’s public health professionals deserve training about how trauma affects them and the persons who enter hospitals, clinics and institutions. But too often the training stops there. What about empowering our nation’s healers to care for themselves when they are affected by burnout and secondary trauma?