Vicarious trauma management in a tertiary level Child Protection Unit

Ms Yvette Rouse1, Dr Lydia Garside1, Ms Nicki Wickham1

1Child Protection Unit, Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, Randwick, Australia

Vicarious trauma (VT) is the cumulative and detrimental effect of working with and being repeatedly exposed to traumatic information. VT is a neglected and under-resourced work, health and safety issue that is faced by frontline professionals dealing with trauma in hospital settings. It is a leading factor that causes worker burn out and compassion fatigue (Pearlman and McCann 1990). Staff working in child protection units (CPU) are particularly vulnerable as they are exposed to extreme trauma and witness injuries caused by assault that has been sustained by children.

As vicarious trauma is known to have a detrimental effect on an individual’s sense of the world and their perceived sense of safety within it, the Child Protection Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, decided to help manage the impact of this through the development of a vicarious trauma program. This is a quality improvement project to help mitigate and manage the effects of vicarious trauma within a hospital setting. This quality improvement project acknowledges VT as a work, health and safety issue first and foremost. Therefore, responsibility for the management of VT is both at an organisational level as well as with the individual for implementation of self-care.

The VT program focused on three areas: work place practices, self-evaluation/monitoring, and implementation of self-care strategies. This presentation will focus on how the ongoing project has been implemented into daily practice in the work place.


Yvette is a senior social worker who graduated from UNSW. She completed her masters in Couple and Family Therapy in 2013 and has been working in the field of child protection for over 10 years. Yvette has worked in Victoria, NSW and the UK and has a keen interest in the area of trauma as well as impact of vicarious trauma.

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