There’s help for heroes when their job causes trauma


After several years at her demanding and sometimes emotionally draining job, an emergency medical technician starts frequently calling in sick. When she’s at work, she’s moody, and her performance level drops significantly.

This EMT could be the individual face of secondary trauma. But, when the problem develops in more than a few employees, it can negatively affect an organization’s culture. The emotional and psychological toll may result in increased absenteeism, retention and recruitment challenges and other undesirable consequences.

  • Studies show that secondary trauma leads to:
  • Turnover, illness and poor service to clients.
  • Annual health-care and hiring costs of up to $50,000 for mid-sized organizations .
  • As much as $190 billion annually in U.S. health-care costs.

Back in 2011, six women from Kansas City-area social service agencies came together to study secondary trauma. Their efforts led to forming the nonprofit, Secondary Trauma Resource Center. The center now operates a model that has taught hundreds of social service and emergency response agencies across the nation how to prevent secondary trauma and its side effects.

The Secondary Trauma Resource Center works with any organization that has a high-stress environment where staff members experience work-related burnout. The objective is to reduce the consequences of stress by:

  • Increasing individual and organizational resiliency.
  • Reducing stress levels and stress effects.
  • Supporting sustainable and positive culture change.

The program clearly works and shows stark evidence of its success. On completing it:

  • 80 percent of organizations decreased turnover, saving the Kansas City community $250,000 in 2016 alone.
  • 92 percent of clients reported improved coping strategies.
  • 100 percent of managers felt better equipped to deal with overwhelmed or depressed staff.

The Secondary Trauma Resource Center is a highly regarded, award-winning national leader in its field. With workplace stress on the rise, its work will grow more important each day. The organization welcomes funding support for operations and staffing, marketing expertise and community awareness. Contact Julia Westhoff, executive director, at julia@secondarytraumaresourcecenter.org or call 913.669.3086.

This HCF-sponsored post originally appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of Our Health MattersSince 2005 Our Health Matters has served as metropolitan Kansas City’s premier health and wellness magazine, linking readers to timely health news, information and resources. The editorial aligns with and supports the community’s goal of creating a culture of health. Topics range from promoting healthy lifestyles, insight on chronic preventable conditions like heart disease, stroke and mental health issues. Our Health Matters is a leading health media—keeping people in touch with their health. Find Our Health Matters on Facebook and Twitter


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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