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(M = 19.2, SD = 5.8) and low-rise residence hall (M = 21.7, SD = 6.4) were lower than
the pre-test secondary traumatic stress scores of those living in the low-rise residence
hall (M = 25.4, SD = 8.1).
Based on the post-hoc test results, significant mean differences were found in burnout
and secondary traumatic stress scores. In other words, RAs' ProQOL scores vary
depending on the type of the residence halls.
DISCUSSION
The initial findings from this brief study reveal some unexpected data. Noting that
the RA job is a challenging combination of strong interpersonal skills balanced with
professional decorum, the overall decrease in burnout and secondary traumatic stress
scores is a positive and surprising outcome. Not only did these scores decrease, but the
overall secondary traumatic stress scores decreased from the moderate range to the low
range, indicating meaningful improvement. While burnout also decreased, the scores
remained in the moderate range.
Additionally, compassion satisfaction decreased over the course of a semester but
remained within the moderate range. This third score decrease is the most remarkable
because of the anticipated relationship among the scores. Reductions in burnout
and secondary traumatic stress tend to be linked to improved compassion satisfaction
(Beaumont et al., 2015; Ray et al., 2013); however, that was not the case in this research.
There are several possibilities bolstered by the qualitative data that may shed light
on the unanticipated outcomes. The most likely interpretation is that the reductions
in burnout and secondary traumatic stress can be attributed to the strength of the relationships
that RAs have with their residents. This is certainly reflected in the literature
on the social value and importance attributed to the role (Graham et al., 2018).
RAs indicated that as the semester wears on they develop friendships with their
residents. When emotionally difficult experiences occur within the context of friendship,
RAs are less likely to feel traumatized and emotionally exhausted and can view
these experiences through a different lens. Research has confirmed that friendship
can be a buffer for stress due to the supportive nature of the interpersonal relationship
(Taylor, 2006; Taylor et al., 2000). The change in perspective about the very nature
of the relationship could explain why RAs experience a decrease in compassion satisfaction,
which directly speaks to deriving pleasure from the work of helping; they no
longer see their helping connection as work, but instead as normal support among
friends. This hypothesis also acknowledges the qualitative data suggesting that the
professional obligations become burdensome and difficult to enforce, a situation that
is expected when peers become friends rather than just residents.
Another reason that the numbers indicate decreased compassion satisfaction
may be that residents were simply more mature and self-sustaining than anticipated.
It is possible that as residents progressed through their college career, they became
more capable of reducing and managing the problems that originally would have
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 48, No. 2 - intro
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