Home > Issue 4 (Volume 12) > The impact of emotional labor and workaholism in health care professionals’ secondary traumatic stress


Introduction: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) of healthcare professionals (HP) is a negative feeling driven by fear, “suffering” and work related trauma that can be direct (primary) trauma or occurs after the secondary exposure to people who have experienced extremely or traumatically stressful events. Several researchers have supported the relationship between STS, work addiction and emotional labor (EL). EL is the process of regulating both feelings and expressions to achieve organizational expectations, or, planning, and control needed to express organizationally desired emotions during interpersonal transactions.

Aim: To investigate the impact of emotional labor and work addiction on healthcare professionals’ STS.

Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted in a convenience sample of 231 HP, working in 3 public and 2 private hospitals. They completed a questionnaire that included: a) demographic/occupational characteristics, b) the Discrete Emotions, Emotional Labor Scale (DEELS), c) the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL), and d) the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. Data analysis was performed using the statistical package SPSS 24.0 Results: The sample consisted of 231 HP (77.9% nursing personnel and 22.1% physicians). Participants reported median levels of STS and low levels of work addiction. HP expressed more often emotions of happiness (mean=4.29) and less often emotions of fear (mean=1.85). As far as it concerns HP’s emotions that they hide but feel, they expressed more often emotions of frustration (mean=4.02) and less often emotions of happiness (mean=2.60). Emotions that HPs are expected to show but feel different, expressed more often the feeling of satisfaction (mean=2.55) and less often the feeling of fear (mean=2.08). Findings indicate that years of experience and age predict high risk for STS. In addition, STS was positively associated with work addiction (p=0.000) and the frequency (p=0.000) HPs express their feelings.

Conclusions: HP’s expression of feelings, differ from what they really felt and was found to be positively associated with increased levels of STS. Findings highlight the importance of HP’s empowerment, psychological support, as well as the need for educational interventions to increase their resilience to STS.

Keywords: emotional labor, healthcare professionals, secondary traumatic stress, work addiction

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