Nurses ease the suffering of others – whether that be physical or mental suffering. But, what impact can this have on nurses? We take a look at vicarious trauma, including how to recognise and avoid it.
What is vicarious trauma?
Vicarious trauma can develop in people who are exposed to other people’s trauma over a prolonged period. For nurses, vicarious trauma can be the ‘cost of caring’ as they witness their patients go through illness, pain, fear, violence, abuse, death, and physical or mental health issues.
The consequences of vicarious trauma can be vast, leading to cognitive, psychological, and physiological changes.1 Those with vicarious trauma may become occupied with thoughts about those they are caring for and may become obsessive with work. This is commonly observed in caretakers working in hospitals.1 However, non-frontline nurses are also at risk.