The cost of caring? social workers in hospitals confront ongoing terrorism

Rachel Dekel*, Shira Hantman, Karni Ginzburg, Zahava Solomon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study reported here assesses the severity of post-traumatic symptoms and emotional distress among hospital social workers who provided emergency treatment to victims after terrorist attacks in Israel. We examined the contributions of personal and professional exposure to terrorism, professional training, supervision, sense of professional confidence, and optimism to the severity of distress among 144 social workers ateighteen hospitals in various parts of the country. Emotional distress was assessed by two measures: secondary traumatization (post-traumatic symptoms after treating victims of terrorist attacks), and additional psychiatric symptomatology. Only 7 per cent of the workers reported secondary traumatization, and their levels of distress on accompanying psychiatric symptoms were significantly lower than the norms for the general Israeli population. We also found that professional exposure to terrorism, sense of professional confidence and optimism contributed significantly to the explained variance in distress. The discussion deals with the findings in light of the rise in terrorism in recent years and the professional literature on the topic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1261
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Optimism
  • Secondary traumatization
  • Social workers
  • Terrorism


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