Young medicos hit by stress

Young doctors and nurses regularly exposed to children in medical trauma are more likely to experience symptoms of secondary traumatic stress than counterparts in adult medicine, according to research.

The study involved researchers from Edith Cowan University, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, the University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Burns Service of WA and the Fiona Wood Foundation.

ECU's Sarah McGarry said though it had been established that healthcare professionals working with traumatically injured adults were at increased risk of negative psychological distress, little research had been done on those working with paediatric patients.

"We found that participants demonstrated statistically significant more symptoms of secondary traumatic stress, which has symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder, including fear, sleep difficulties and avoidance of intrusive clinical images," Dr McGarry said.

"They also showed lower resilience, less use of 'dealing with the problem' and more use of non-productive coping, as well as less compassionate satisfaction, which is the positive feeling associated with helping and caring for patients."

Health professionals under 25, in particular, used more non- productive coping strategies (worry, self-blame, keeping to self, wishful thinking and ignoring the problem), less "sharing as a coping strategy" and tended to have more symptoms of depression. They reported less compassion satisfaction and demonstrated lower rates of resilience compared with older colleagues.

"These results indicate that young health professionals are vulnerable to experiencing significant distress, and interventions are required to support them, particularly during the transition time from university into clinical practice," Dr McGarry said.

It is hoped the findings can help inform understanding of the mental health of paediatric teams to address a growing shortage of healthcare professionals.

This article first appeared at sciencewa.net.au

The West Australian

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