Chapter 1: Vicarious trauma & moral distress in the ICU

Understanding vicarious trauma

Vicarious trauma refers to the impact of working with and being exposed indirectly to psychological trauma, most commonly experienced by professionals. It is also sometimes described as secondary traumatic stress or compassion distress

Vicarious trauma can take a physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional toll on people who experience it.

Some examples of the impacts of vicarious trauma include:

  • Chronic physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of self-contempt
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Poor job satisfaction