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Labor complications, Nurses, frequency, Secondary traumatic stress



  1. Nicholls, Erika M. MSN, RN, C-EFM
  2. Hermann, Robin M. MSN, RN, CCRP
  3. Giordano, Nicholas A. PhD, RN
  4. Trotta, Rebecca L. PhD, RN


Purpose: To describe the prevalence and severity of secondary traumatic stress (STS) among labor and delivery nurses within a Northeastern United States academic health system.


Study Design and Methods: Using a cross-sectional, descriptive correlational design, a convenience sample of labor and delivery nurses (288 nurses) were invited to complete Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS), a 17-item Likert-type instrument, that measures intrusion, avoidance, and the arousal symptoms associated with indirect exposure to traumatic events. Five additional questions about potential consequences of STS were also asked.


Results: N = 144 completed the survey (50% response rate). Average STSS score was 33.74 (SD, 11.8), with 35% of respondents meeting symptom severity scores associated with STS. STSS Scores >= 38 were significantly correlated with nurses considering leaving their jobs, calling out sick, or requesting an assignment change after witnessing a traumatic birth (p < 0.001). The majority of respondents (84.7%) reported witnessing a traumatic birth. After witnessing a traumatic birth, respondents used co-workers, family, and friends as sources of support.


Clinical Implications: This study offers insight into the frequency and severity of STS among labor and delivery nurses, as well as the potential workforce-related consequences and provides a foundation for future work aimed at developing interventions to prevent or alleviate STS.