Stories from the Front Line: Working in Highly Stressful Careers

We choose the work that we do for many reasons: need to pay the bills, accessibility or interest. Sometimes, if we are lucky we get to choose work that we love. Front line work such as paramedic, police work, firefighter, nurse, doctor, midwife, social worker and many others is a labor of love. Loving your job can also come at a cost of being exposed to traumatic experiences. It is not unusual for front line workers to wave off such matters because they see, hear and feel difficult things every day. However, occasionally and without warning witnessing a trauma can leave you feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped. This is the experience of secondary trauma. This experience too often is felt silently for fear of being ill-regarded by peers or simply having no one helpful to talk to about it.

Letting these feelings go unchecked can be like allowing constant anxiety, anger and fear to rule your work life. However, not many resources exist to help deal with secondary trauma. Much of the literature on this topic is limited to education. It seems as though knowing about secondary trauma is thought to be sufficient to deal with it when it unexpectedly arrives like an explosive in your life. We as helping professionals are asked by our employer about self-care. This is kind of an all-encompassing word that is used to inquire how you deal with your day to day work, but it’s not really a tangible solution.

I speak from person experience here; I know what it feels like to lose joy in a job that you feel passionately about because of trauma. Imagine turning to someone caring, someone professional who you can speak to in confidence and say the words, “I saw something terrible, and I haven’t felt the same since.” Call me or send me an email, I can be that person.