Extreme stress events in a forensic hospital setting: prevalence, impact, and protective factors in staff

Ireland, Carol Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7310-2903, Chu, Simon orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8921-4942, Ireland, Jane Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5117-5930, hartley, Victoria, Ozanne, Rebecca and Lewis, Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5567-3569 (2021) Extreme stress events in a forensic hospital setting: prevalence, impact, and protective factors in staff. Issues in Mental Health Nursing . ISSN 0161-2840

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840.2021.2003492


The current research explored the prevalence of stressful events in a forensic hospital setting, and their impact on staff. A systematic review of the literature on responses following exposure to extreme stress comprised 46 articles. This was followed by a Delphi study of professionals based in a forensic hospital (n = 43) to explore views on the factors that affect responses to extreme stress. This comprised three rounds to build consensus. Finally, a study of forensic hospital staff was conducted (n = 153, 47% male) to capture current trauma symptoms. The systematic review indicated three superordinate themes: outcomes adversely impacting staff and patients; personal characteristics moderating the impact of events; and organisational and interpersonal support moderating the impact of events. The Delphi supported these themes and noted the importance of factors external to the workplace and internal factors, such as self-blame. The final study demonstrated how a fifth of the workforce showed at least some trauma symptomology. Those who experienced less burnout reported lower trauma symptoms, while staff who experienced higher levels of secondary trauma at work reported higher levels of trauma symptoms. A higher level of resilience was related to lower levels of trauma symptomology. Findings are discussed in relation to the importance of recognising trauma in staff and implementing strategies to reduce and/or buffer the impact of stress on wellbeing. In doing so, the research presents a new model for consideration and development, the Impact and Amelioration of extreme stress events Model (IA-Model).

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