What is it about?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a person is exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. Among nurses, post-traumatic stress can lead to compassion fatigue, lower healthcare quality, and lost work time. This survey of 761 staff at two large psychiatric hospitals in Canada found that 16% met a self-report PTSD screening cutoff, and 9% met more stringent criteria for PTSD. Staff who were exposed to critical events (e.g., assaults, threats and deaths) and those who experienced chronic stressors (e.g., patients screaming or physically resisting care) had higher PTSD symptom scores.

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Why is it important?

A lot of attention has been paid to PTSD among military personnel, police, firefighters, and other first responders. Our study is important because it shows that psychiatric workers are also at risk of workplace PTSD. It shows the need for workplace mental health programs to go beyond basic wellness programs to supporting staff with PTSD.


Although most people with mental disorders are not violent and live productive lives in the community, some are prone to violence and may have other behaviors that make caring for them stressful. However, I was surprised to discover that chronic, everyday work stress contributes as much to workplace trauma as assaults and threats do.

Dr N Zoe Hilton
University of Toronto

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Contribution of Critical Events and Chronic Stressors to PTSD Symptoms Among Psychiatric Workers, Psychiatric Services, March 2020, American Psychiatric Association, DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.201900226.
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