Working conditions and secondary traumatic stress
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This study examined the relationship between working conditions and levels of secondary traumatic stress in social workers. This was an explanatory, cross sectional study based on social workers' self report of conditions of work and their experience of secondary traumatic stress. Data were collected by means of a mailed survey comprised of three parts: (1) the Work Environment Scale (WES) to measure working conditions; (2) the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS) to measure secondary traumatic stress; and (3) professional characteristics and personal demographic information. A systematic random sample of 500 social workers was drawn from mailing lists from state social work licensing boards representing at least one state in each of the ten federal regions (Gibelman & Sweifach, 2005). The return from social workers employed by organizations, i.e. the targeted sample, represented 36% (n=182).;Based on the assumptions of human relations theory, that workers are impacted by the setting, structure and relationships experienced through their work, this study examined the problem of occupational stress with a focus on organizational factors. A primary contribution of the study pertains to a shift in perspective, by approaching STS as an organizational problem rather than an individual problem.;The strongest findings came from the study's regression analyses. The overall perception of the work environment measured by the WES served as a strong predictor for STS. Within the work environment, coworker cohesion, work pressure and physical comfort were the strongest predictors of STS. Professional characteristics including overtime and years in practice also made significant contributions to the prediction of STS in social workers. Occupational stress was found to be a significant problem for social workers and numerous correlations to working conditions were confirmed. The findings of this study hold significance for the nature of training and recommendations given to social workers to mitigate the effects of STS.