Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. This may be from someone you care for, at handover or from colleagues.
Traumatic countertransference (where you unconsciously relate to patient or client you are looking after) is particularly common. Many health care workers recognize the death of a child or parent who has children about the same age as the health worker can trigger this response. Equally, someone you are caring for who reminds you of a parent or partner can evoke strong feelings – particularly if you are grieving the loss of that person.
Not everybody will identify these as distinct experiences. For example, you may find that you experience a bit of each of these at different times. What can be most helpful is to understand the impact so you and your workplace can prevent or minimize these impacts. Recognize how grief and loss is affecting you and what impact it is having on you professionally and personally is important. Stigma that experiencing feelings of loss and grief is not normal exists and can be a major barrier to good emotional wellbeing when you are experiencing grief or trauma.