• Article
  • May 21 2020

Researchers Awarded Grant to Study Secondary Traumatic Stress in Health Workers

Stock image of counseling session

Researchers in the University of Kentucky Center on Trauma and Children were awarded a $3 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to establish a national Secondary Traumatic Stress Innovations and Solutions Center (STS-ISC) to develop and test interventions to treat secondary traumatic stress.

“Secondary traumatic stress is a serious mental health condition that impacts professionals who work with individuals who have endured traumatic events,” said Ginny Sprang, Ph.D, principal investigator of the grant, professor of psychiatry and executive director of the UK Center on Trauma and Children. “Those in high exposure positions such as therapists, psychiatrists, child welfare workers, healthcare professionals and first responders are most affected.”

Secondary traumatic stress is a natural but disruptive by-product of extreme and repeated indirect exposure to aversive trauma details, usually in the course of professional duties. The response to these exposures can be mild to severe, and in the most serious cases, becomes post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to the emotional and mental toll, this distress can affect how professionals tolerate their work and interact with patients.

The STS-ISC project will implement and test interventions to over 1,000 professionals and create free tools and resources that will be accessible to the global community of trauma workers and resource parents, including those working at sites that serve unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents at the border.

“The grant will allow researchers to implement and test methods to decrease traumatic stress symptoms and improve functioning in professionals who have high doses of indirect trauma exposure,” said Sprang. “As professional well-being increases, we hypothesize that workforce indicators such as absenteeism, presenteeism and attrition will decrease and quality of care will increase.”