Trauma Exposure Response: How Secondary Trauma Affects Personal and Professional Life

Date of Review: June, 2022

This resource describes a 1-hour, interactive session to educate residents and fellows on how to recognize and cope with exposure to secondary trauma, i.e. the emotional distress physicians can experience when hearing about the firsthand trauma experiences from patients and colleagues. It was implemented within the institution’s trainee wellness curriculum, and included a faculty-led Powerpoint presentation and small group discussion. The session is designed to be delivered either in person or virtually, and had 3 goals: 1) Define secondary trauma and trauma exposure response; 2) Describe signs of trauma exposure response, and; 3) Demonstrate coping techniques. The resource’s main strengths include its brief format, being easy to implement, and inclusion of easy-to-digest material that emphasized practical advice and techniques. A limitation of the resource is the fact that it offers a very small intervention dose, and that many participants did not find it especially valuable or helpful. Relatively few participating residents/fellows completed a post-session evaluation, but among those who completed an evaluation 43% reported NOT being able to identify steps they could take to cope with trauma exposure response, and only 54% of respondents rated the session as valuable. Despite these limitations, the easy-to-implement nature of the resource makes it reasonable to consider; readers may wish to use the 1-hour curriculum as is, or to adapt pieces of it within a more comprehensive resource on how to cope with trauma exposure response. –Dave Liss, PhD, NCEAS

Corresponding Author’s Email:


Spectrum Health/Michigan State University

Where was the Curriculum Implemented:

Grand Rapids, MI

Outcomes that Have Been Reported for the Curriculum:

Learner Satisfaction or reaction

Self-reported learner knowledge

Outcome and Study Design:

Post Only


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