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Secondary Traumatic Stress in Nursing


The current featured ANS article is titled “Secondary Traumatic Stress in Nursing: A Walker and Avant Concept Analysis,” authored by Marni B. Kellogg, PhD, RN, CPN, CNE, and it is available for download at no cost while it is featured. Here is a description of her work from Dr. Kellogg:

My primary research interest is secondary traumatic stress in nursing. As a pediatric nurse, my interest came about as I wondered if stress in nursing was different or more intense for pediatric nurses than nurses in other settings. As time has gone on, particularly with the pandemic, my research program has expanded to include stress and trauma in all nursing settings.

“Secondary Traumatic Stress in Nursing: A Walker and Avant Concept Analysis” resulted from my work overtime and was written to address a gap in the literature. Secondary traumatic stress is the stress a nurse faces when something upsetting happens to their patient. I propose a new definition in the article which explains what secondary traumatic stress is and what it is not. The phenomenon is frequently confused with the terms burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious traumatization; they are not all synonymous. Additionally, secondary traumatic stress has many of the same symptoms as Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; therefore, nurses must be aware of this phenomenon to protect their mental health. A purer meaning of secondary traumatic stress in nurses is needed to distinguish it from each of the closely related terms. Clarity in the definition of secondary traumatic stress allows for the appropriate measurement and advancement of research related to its occurrence, treatment, and prevention in nursing.

It is vital to address traumatic stress in nurses as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, I have completed some research with colleagues in psychology; nurses are suffering from traumatic stress. I am currently working with my team to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses in the United States. We plan to develop appropriate interventions to help nurses. I worry about experienced nurses leaving their specialties or the profession because of the stress from the pandemic. Nurse educators must be aware of traumatic stress and work to build strong, resilient nurses who are mindful of the importance of self-care and mental health. Healthy nurses are effective nurses and will benefit our community.

I look forward to your feedback. Please take good care.

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