Secondary traumatic stress in the emergency department

Lindy Morrison, Jane P. Joy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
132 Downloads (Pure)


AIM: To investigate the prevalence of secondary traumatic stress among Emergency nurses in the West of Scotland and explore their experiences of this.

BACKGROUND: Unexpected death, trauma and violence are regular occurrences that contribute to the stressful environment nurses working in the Emergency department experience. A potential consequence of repeated exposure to such stressors can be referred to as secondary traumatic stress.

DESIGN: Triangulation of methods of data collection, using two distinct phases: Phase 1 - quantitative Phase 2 - qualitative METHODS: Quantitative data were collated via postal questionnaire, from a convenience sample of Emergency nurses. Qualitative data were subsequently collated from a focus group constituting of a random sample of these Emergency nurses. Descriptive statistics were computed and thematic analysis conducted. All data were collated during February 2013.

RESULTS/FINDINGS: 75% of the sampled Emergency nurses reported at least one secondary traumatic stress symptom in the last week. Participants said that acute occupational stressors such as resuscitation and death were the influencing factors towards this. Strategies such as formal debriefing and social support were cited as beneficial tools for the management of secondary traumatic stress; however, barriers such as time and experience were found to inhibit their common use.

CONCLUSION: Secondary traumatic stress is a prevalent phenomenon among Emergency nurses in the West of Scotland and if not managed appropriately, could represent a significant barrier to the mental health of this group and their capacity to provide quality care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2894-2906
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number11
Early online date20 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


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