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Many Emergency Nurses Suffer From Compassion Fatigue

Last Updated: June 15, 2009.

The high prevalence of symptoms of secondary traumatic stress among emergency room nurses indicates that many may be at risk of emotional exhaustion and separation from patients, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

MONDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- The high prevalence of symptoms of secondary traumatic stress among emergency room nurses indicates that many may be at risk of emotional exhaustion and separation from patients, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

Elvira Dominguez-Gomez, R.N., of Hemet Valley Medical Center in California, and Dana N. Rutledge, R.N., of California State University in Fullerton, used the Secondary Traumatic Stress survey to conduct a study of 67 emergency nurses working at three California hospitals.

Over half of the nurses surveyed exhibited symptoms of compassion fatigue, with 54 percent reporting irritability and 52 percent reporting avoidance of patients, the researchers discovered. Intrusive thoughts about patients were reported by 46 percent of the nurses, and 85 percent reported having at least one symptom in the previous week. The authors further note that, while 15 percent of the nurses did not meet any criteria for secondary traumatic stress, 33 percent of them met all the criteria.

"The high prevalence of secondary traumatic stress in this sample indicates that large numbers of emergency nurses may be experiencing the negative effects of secondary traumatic stress," the authors write. "Increasing the awareness of this phenomenon in the workplace may prevent emotional exhaustion and potential job separation of emergency nurses who suffer from secondary traumatic stress."

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