Psychologists-in-Training as Patient Suicide Survivors: a Preliminary Report
Kleespies P M~~Smith M R~~Becker B R
This study was an investigation of the incidence, impact, and methods of coping with patient suicide during the training years of psychology graduate students. A survey was conducted of 54 interns in Clinical Psychology at the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital from 1983 through 1988. The findings revealed that one in six subjects had experienced a patient suicide during their training years. Eight of the nine trainees who had experienced a patient suicide and 10 former trainees who reported a patient suicide attempt completed two copies of the Impact of Event Scale (IES): one with reference to the 2 weeks following the patient suicide or suicide attempt and a second with reference to the 2 weeks immediately preceding completion of the scale. Trainees who had experienced a patient suicide reported stress levels on the IES equivalent to patient reference samples with bereavement, and higher than professional clinicians with patient suicide. Trainees who experienced a patient suicide attempt also reported initially feeling high levels of stress. No significant difference was found on the IES ratings between the Patient Suicide Group and the Patient Suicide Attempt Group. Most frequently, trainees turned to supervisors for support and formulation of the suicide. Preparatory efforts via suicide education were found to be minimal and inadequate.