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Enhancing Self-Care for Professional Caregivers

Marlys Staudt, associate professor in the College of Social Work, designed a study to assess secondary trauma, burnout, and compassion satisfaction among professionals associated with the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). The CAC provides assessment and treatment to children and youth who have experienced trauma stemming from severe physical and/or sexual abuse. Respondents were mostly social workers associated with the Department of Children’s Services or the CAC, but also included representatives from law enforcement and the juvenile court.

Participants completed a survey that included the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS), the Professional Quality of Life Scale, and the Life Stress Test. Based on the STSS, 50% of participants may possibly have PTSD due to secondary stress. Fourteen of the participants scored high/severe on the intrusion subscale of the STSS, 18 were in the moderate, high, or severe range on the arousal subscale, and 14 were in the same range on the avoidance subscale. Very few of the participants scored high on burnout. All of the participants have average or high compassion satisfaction, which refers to the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes from helping clients.

The team also found significant correlations between compassion satisfaction scores and secondary traumatic stress and burnout scores. Those with higher compassion scores had lower scores on burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

Finally, it was discovered that those who experienced more stressful events and life transitions in the past year reported higher levels of secondary traumatic stress and burnout and lower compassion satisfaction. The project was funded in part through the Engagement Incentive Grant offered through a competitive process in the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach.