Trauma alert: Flight deck

Miss Kerryn Rhodes1

1Wimmera Health Care Group, Horsham, Australia

Clinicians providing emergency care are exposed to a diversity of presentations that can range from the common to the most catastrophic. Rates of exposures to traumatic events and their effects can be manifested in the individual clinician subtly and insidiously.

Mental health is at best a complex science and at worst a debilitating disintegration of a clinician’s capability to function, not only at a clinical level, but, also importantly on a psycho-social human level. Mental health deterioration can have a slow onset without obvious signs and symptoms. Once the clinician becomes aware of their illness, the reaction to seek help can be an internal battle between the clinician’s own knowledge and their mental distress convincing them they are “not sick enough to bother anyone”. A clinician’s willingness to admit to having mental distress is often marred by the fear of being “unfit for AHPRA registration” and complicated by the stigma behind the labels of “weak” and “not cut out for the job”. This presentation provides an individual perspective of how the presenters exposure to uncommon, unlucky and unfortunate cases in quick succession developed into post-traumatic stress disorder.

The reduction of moral and mental health injuries is not merely an individual responsibility to remain healthy, but also organisational, to ensure the workplace is psychologically safe. Recognising and responding to a deteriorating clinician requires a whole team approach. Exposure to vicarious trauma in the workplace can have detrimental effects to clinician’s mental well-being, just as manual handling may impact clinician’s physical well-being. Exploring the risks to mental well-being in the workplace to improve awareness may be the beginning to reducing the stigma of mental health.

Reducing the risk of mental health injuries and moral distress in emergency clinicians begins by smashing the stigma of mental health and creating psychologically safe workplaces.


Kerryn Rhodes is an Emergency, Clinical Nurse Specialist with her Masters in Nursing Practice. She has eight years rural and regional nursing experience with aims to raise awareness of workplace well-being and smash the stigma of disability in the workplace.