Relationship between Selected Personal Attributes and Occurrence of Vicarious Trauma among Staff in Hospices in Kenya
Musili, Phelista Marura
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Vicarious trauma is increasingly recognized as a global phenomenon which affects populations that are directly involved with suffering patients as is the case with staff in hospice settings. Hospice caregivers are constantly exposed to agonizing stories of trauma from patients and their families. This can trigger reactions in the caregiver similar to those experienced by the clients. Research findings indicate that there is a variation in the way caregivers react to vicarious trauma (VT). However, the few studies that have attempted to look at personal attributes that can put hospice caregivers at risk of developing VT have yielded equivocal results. Furthermore, some studies focused entirely on medics leaving out the other staff members who also could be at risk for VT. The current study therefore, aimed to determine the relationship between selected personal attributes namely: age, level of education, work experience, gender, personal trauma history, level of empathy; and occurrence of VT among hospice workers. Constructivist Self Development Theory (CSDT) guided the study. The study utilized a correlational research design. The study targeted all the 120 members of staff in the 21 hospices in Kenya. Random stratified sampling was used to select a total of ten hospices. The study sample comprised 70 members of staff (male and female) in the sampled hospices. Data was collected using four structured self-report tools namely: Brief Trauma History Tool, Vicarious Trauma Scale, Interpersonal Reactivity Index as well as an open-ended instrument. A demographic questionnaire was also included. Data was then analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Correlations between selected personal attributes and occurrence of VT were done. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to analyze parametric data while chi square was used to test non-parametric data. The study findings revealed a prevalence rate of 67% of VT among hospice workers. Some of the personal attributes namely age, level of empathy and personal history of trauma bad a significant positive relationship with the occurrence of VT [age: 1'(70) =.256, p=.032; personal trauma history: r(70)=.275, p=.021; level of empathy: r(70)=.256, p=.032]. Other demographic variables including: gender, level of education, occupation and years of work experience were found to have no significant correlation with the occurrence of VT. Based on CSDT the study concluded that the self which is the seat of personality regulates the individual's experience of trauma. The findings showed that vicarious trauma is a real threat to care givers working in hospices. The study recommended that there is need to educate caregivers about the existence and possible risk factors of vicarious trauma. It further recommended that, sound organizational interventions, prevention and psychosocial support programmes need to be developed to empower the caregivers so that they can enhance their self capacities, as well as the wellbeing of the organization as a whole. These findings may guide the development of appropriate preventive strategies and interventions that target risks for development of VT.