Dissertation

Examining the Emotional Impact of Secondary Traumatic Stress on the Teacher

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Throughout the United States and globally, the occupational hazards of working with traumatized individuals has become a public health issue threatening the workforce of first responders such as social workers, law enforcement, clinicians, and medical health providers (Molnar et al., 2017). Researchers, psychologists, and organizational leaders are becoming increasingly aware of secondary traumatic stress and its effects. The risk of teachers experiencing secondary traumatic stress is becoming a topic of discussion for many educational leaders. Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is defined as “the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another” (National Child Traumatic Stress Network [NCTSN], 2019). Hearing about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which are traumatic events that children experience such as abuse, neglect, divorce, parent separation, incarceration of a parent, as well as living with a parent who has a mental illness, could have a significant impact on the psyche of the teacher. The purpose of this study was to determine whether K-8 teachers in a Pre-K to 12 suburban district in Middlesex, NJ experienced compassion satisfaction, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, or a combination thereof, as a result of their interactions with students who have endured trauma. Stamm’s (2009) Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL-V), a 30-item survey that includes the three subscales of Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue, was utilized in this research study. Based on the findings, the recommendations include that there is a need to provide counseling and training to teachers to help overcome and prevent the emotional impact.

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