The purpose of this study is to examine secondary traumatic stress (STS) and the coping of social workers in inpatient and outpatient settings in a Veterans Affairs healthcare system. A convenience sample of 126 master's level and above social workers completed a survey measuring Secondary Traumatic Stress. Rates of reported secondary traumatic stress symptoms and utilization of coping strategies by social work staff were investigated. Setting was not a significant factor in reported secondary traumatic stress scores. Although female social workers in inpatient settings reported higher rates of stress symptomatology than other social workers across settings, the rates were not found to be statistically significant. Social workers who reported belief in using coping strategies did not report lower scores on the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale. Social workers who reported increased time spent using organizational coping strategies also did not report lower scores on the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale. The majority of social workers reported experiencing STS symptoms (59.5%), particularly those who have increased caseloads of clients with trauma (p < .001). Those who reported feeling 'satisfied'– with their work reported lower rates of STS symptomatology, a significant finding (p < .001). Implications for policy development to address some of the organizationally supported factors that lead to STS such as length of exposure and job satisfaction are discussed. Future research should examine individual and organizationally supported factors that contribute to and help mitigate STS in this distinct setting.

LLU Discipline

Social Policy and Social Research


Social Work and Social Ecology


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Freeman, Kimberly

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Burnout; Professional; Health Personnel -- Psychology; Social Workers; Veterans Affairs -- United States

Subject - Local

Secondary Traumatic Stress; Veterans Affairs Healthcare; Coping Strategies



Page Count

111 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

Included in

Social Work Commons