Multiple terrorist attacks: Compassion fatigue in Israeli social workers

Miri Cohen, Roni Gagin, Maya Peled-Avram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With each recurrent terror attack in Israel, hospital social workers attend family members of the injured and the dead from the very first hours after the incident, giving them psychological first aid and information. The aims of the study were to assess the occurrence and levels of compassion fatigue and its correlates among hospital social workers. Fifty-three social workers from two major hospitals in Israel filled out the Secondary Traumatization and Burnout subscales of the Compassion Fatigue Questionnaire, in addition to demographic details, professional experience, and participation in supervision or debriefing sessions. The results show that social workers had participated on average in 4.4 (SD 2.6) terror attacks. Of the social workers, 75.5% had participated in debriefing sessions soon after the terror incident, and most had participated in individual or group supervision. They reported moderate levels of secondary traumatization and low levels of burnout. The latter outcome was related to participation in group supervision during the previous year. Secondary traumatization was not associated with the number of terror attacks, nor with demographic characteristics or professional degree or seniority, nor with having individual or group supervision or participation in debriefing. Despite the high number of terror events they attended, participants in the study proved relatively resilient to their effects. Compassion fatigue emerged as a state independent of a range of personal and situational characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-301
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Compassion fatigue
  • Debriefing
  • Hospital
  • Social workers
  • Supervision
  • Terror

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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