Amy B. Hertle

Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Maria Dinis

Second Advisor

Joe Clubb

Third Advisor

Margaret Pederson


The purpose of this qualitative study is to gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of seven hospital social workers surrounding stress and coping with critical incident experiences. Participants were gathered through a non-probability sample and identified by a key informant in the field of hospital social work. Research was conducted through an in-depth interview where participants were asked to describe personal critical incident experiences and methods used to cope with stress. Results found that situations involving life and death, personal connections and politics of the environment were most often viewed as critical incidents. Furthermore, these experiences were best coped with through support of peers, balance in life, education and a personal fit to role. Finally, it was found that experiences not only impacted participants by creating emotional reactions, but also served as a means for personal and professional growth. Implications for social work practice and policy are discussed.


SC 11.MSW.2000.Hertle.AB