of Ambulance staff said Compassion Fatigue should be part of mandatory training
of Animal Welfare staff work longer hours than they’re paid for
of Healthcare workers recognised Compassion Fatigue symptoms in their colleagues
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion Fatigue is the set of symptoms you experience when you work with people or animals who are suffering or in distress.
What are the symptoms?
In many ways the symptoms mirror those of the people or animals you are trying to help. You may feel shaky, anxious and breathless, irritable and short tempered or very emotionally overwhelmed and just want to go home and block the day out.
What are the causes?
Your empathetic connection to these people or animals has caused your body to react, through a process called Vicarious Trauma (or secondary stress), as if their suffering, their distress or their trauma had happened directly to you.
"The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet"
- Dr. Naomi Rachel Remen
Why haven’t I heard about it?
Because this is the dark side of caring and until recently has been ignored or rarely talked about as if talking about it will somehow make it worse. But even though they don’t know what it is called; everyone who works in a role that involves being exposed to the suffering of others knows exactly what effect this has on them and their colleagues.
What are the effects?
Compassion Fatigue has a very profound impact on your work and home life. It can leave you feeling constantly anxious and stressed, short tempered and lacking in empathy or switched off and detached. It also affects your physical and emotional health which can prevent you from doing your job that you were once so passionate about.
Who is at risk of Compassion Fatigue?
If your job is to help people or animals in distress, you will experience the symptoms of Compassion Fatigue at some point in your career. Even the most emotionally resilient people will have times in their lives when the emotional impact of their jobs will have a profound effect on them.
Some of the occupations that are most at risk of Compassion Fatigue include:
Medical and nursing staff
Lawyers/solicitors/allied legal staff
Emergency services personnel – ambulance/fire/police/coastguard/RNLI
Other care staff – e.g. physiotherapists/occupational therapists/speech therapists
Animal welfare staff
Teachers and teaching assistants
Health care assistants
Charity staff and volunteers
I’m a manager, what can I do to help my staff?
We provide courses specifically tailored to the needs of managers. We help them understand what is happening to their staff and provide them with practical and sustainable strategies that increase staff morale, reduce sickness rates and increase staff retention.
How does compassion fatigue affect the organisation?
Staff can really struggle to work effectively or with empathy and compassion. They can take their frustration out on each other with bullying behaviour. They can come across as shut down and uncaring. Complaints will rise, sickness rates will rise and staff turnover will rise.
Is it preventable?
It is important to understand that when you work with those in distress you cannot prevent the physical effects of vicarious trauma.
However, it is possible to deal with these effects so that you can greatly reduce or reverse the symptoms of Compassion Fatigue.
Can I recover?
Absolutely and this is what our training is all about!