PTSD symptoms and coping mechanism of nurses in Poland before the COVID-19 pandemic. A cross-sectional study

Original Article, Pol J Public Health 2021;131: 76-81

Justyna Kosydar-Bochenek1, Piotr Jerzy Gurowiec2, Krystyna Woźniak1,
Wioletta Mędrzycka-Dąbrowska3, Dorota Ozga4

1 Institute of Health Sciences, College of Medical Sciences of the University of Rzeszow, Rzeszow, Poland
2 Institute of Health Sciences, University of Opole, Opole, Poland
3 Department of Anaesthesiology Nursing & Intensive Care, Medical University in Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland
4 Medical College of Rzeszow University Institute of Health Sciences, Rzeszow, Poland

DOI_disc_logo 10.2478/pjph-2021-0015

© 2021 Medical University of Lublin. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-No Derivs licence (


Introduction. Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is a consequence of the indirect experience of trauma. The symptoms of STS are similar to those experienced by people who directly experience traumatic events in the form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Aim. The aim of the study was to determine the frequency of the symptoms of PTSD and to establish the role of coping strate- gies in the development of PTSD symptoms among Polish nurses. The study was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Material and methods. The study was conducted in the Podkarpackie Province (Poland) in clinical hospitals and hospital out- patient clinics. The results of studies conducted among 509 nurses were analyzed. The mean age of the respondents was 35 years, and the mean work seniority was 11 years. The IES-R scale and Mini-COPE were used in the study.

Results. At least moderate PTSD symptoms were found in 42.4% of the surveyed nurses. The results showed that maladaptive stress coping strategies played a major role in the development of PTSD symptoms in the group of nurses.

Conclusion. Nurses are a professional group exposed to a high risk of traumatic encounters that may result in PTSD/STS, therefore this professional group should be targeted at prophylactic programs and training in dealing with traumatic stress. The COVID pandemic and the related restrictions, organizational chaos, constant fear and a sense of danger are serious traumatizing factors and can seriously contribute to the increase in stress disorders among nurses and other medical professionals.

Keywords: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), secondary traumatic stress (STS), nurse, coping, COVID-19, pandemic.

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