Posttraumatic stress symptoms in palliative care professionals seeking mindfulness training: Prevalence and vulnerability

Sean O'Mahony, James I. Gerhart, Johanna Grosse, Ira Abrams, Mitchell M. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Vicarious exposure to trauma is ubiquitous in palliative medicine. Repeated exposure to trauma may contribute to compassion fatigue and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in medical and supportive care professionals such as physicians, nurses, and social workers. These symptoms may be intensified among medical and supportive care professionals who use avoidant or rigid coping strategies. Aim: This study aimed to provide an estimate of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in a sample of professionals who work in palliative care settings, and have already been enrolled in mindfulness-based communication training. Design: Palliative care providers provided self-reported ratings of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, depression, and coping strategies using validated measures including the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire, Cognitive Fusion Questionnaire, and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Version. Setting/participants: A total of 21 professionals working with palliative care patients completed assessments prior to beginning mindfulness-based communication training. Results: Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms were prevalent in this sample of professionals; 42% indicated positive screens for significant posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and 33% indicated probable posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis. Conclusion: Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms may be common among professionals working in palliative medicine. Professionals prone to avoidant coping and those with more rigid negative thought processes may be at higher risk for posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-192
Number of pages4
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • burnout
  • cognitive fusion
  • compassion fatigue
  • experiential avoidance
  • traumatic stress


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