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Acute stress reactions among medical and non-medical personnel in a general hospital under missile attacks

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Abstract

Background: Recent mass level traumatic events further boosted the growing interest in understanding the effects of primary (direct) and secondary (indirect) traumatic exposure on “helping professionals.” The objectives of this study are: (1) to assess the rates and severity of PTSD symptoms (PS) among hospital workers operating under fire while treating war-related injured patients, (2) to explore the effect of PS on level of functioning in real time, and (3) to estimate the added effect of secondary traumatization over and above that of primary traumatization. Methods: Rates of PS, level of psychological distress, and level of functioning were assessed in 412 medical and non-medical personnel working in a hospital that was under missile attacks during the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Scale (PSS) was used to assess severity of PS, as well as to estimate probable DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD. Results: The mean number of reported PS was 8.6 (SD=4.4). Forty-three (10.2%) of the participants met the symptom and severity threshold for a probable diagnosis of PTSD, however only 13 of these 43 reported impaired level of functioning. There were no significant differences between personnel who had direct exposure to injured or traumatized casualties of the war and those who were not on PS severity and frequency of probable PTSD. Conclusions: These findings suggest that hospital workers operating under prolonged life-threatening conditions are at moderate risk for PTSD. However, they do not support an incremental effect of secondary traumatic exposure. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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