Many people push aside the idea of self-care. It takes too much time or invokes an idea of being too much “woo-woo” to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, for healthcare professionals especially, secondary traumatic stress is a reality and proper self care is the first step in prevention.
What is secondary traumatic stress? It’s experiencing symptoms of traumatic stress (flashbacks, avoidance, depression, etc) as a result of caring for other. It’s the feeling of being drained, upset or fatigued, even with adequate rest. Or it’s continued, intrusive thoughts about a particular patient. It’s no longer having the desire to do your favorite activities or spend time with friends and family.
When left unaddressed, as the Center for Heath Care Strategies’s infographic below shows, secondary traumatic stress causes additional mental health concerns in the individual, but can lead to poor patient outcomes and high staff turnover.
What steps do individuals and hospital systems need to take to prevent secondary traumatic stress? Healthcare professionals need to be aware of the red flags of secondary traumatic stress and prioritize self care practices. To support their employees, hospital systems should encourage and provide opportunities for self-care and as well as ensure mental health benefits are available through employee wellness programs and medical benefits.