This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Vicarious trauma in nursing

Written by: | Published:

Vicarious trauma Vicarious trauma occurs with prolonged exposure to another person’s traumatic encounters

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.

Vicarious trauma, secondary trauma or burnout?

It is important not to confuse vicarious trauma with burnout or secondary trauma. Burnout is a reaction to long-term job stress and is mainly characterised by exhaustion, loss of interest, and job dissatisfaction. The term ‘secondary trauma’ or ‘secondary traumatic stress’ is often used interchangeably with vicarious trauma. Secondary trauma can happen when you hear of someone else’s first-hand experience with trauma.


Please login or register to read the rest of the article and to have access to downloads and comments.


What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Newsletter

Sign up to the newsletter

About

Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.

Archive

Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team

Authors

Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.