Compassion  Fatigue  

 Currently, Compassion Fatigue Training is in the process of being researched & developed by the National FRC Mental Health Promotion Project

"The clear difference: Compassion Fatigue has a more rapid onset while burnout emerges over time. Compassion Fatigue has a faster recovery (less severe, if recognised and managed early)", The American Institute of Stress (AIS) © Copyright 1979–2017.

 

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue can be described as the "cost of caring" and affects professionals who work in the capacity of helping others. These include social workers, caseworkers, service coordinators, community support workers, doctors, nurses, therapists, emergency workers, and many other professionals. All of them are vulnerable to developing this type of stress.

Although compassion fatigue is linked to professional caregivers due to exposure to traumatising events, minimal knowledge has been developed regarding its presence in family caregivers.

Compassion Fatigue refers to the stress experienced by frontline workers through the personal absorption of the trauma and suffering endured by a client. Regular exposure to such traumatic and troubling events can seriously impact one's personal and professional life. Therefore, clear policies and specific training programs are required to support the staff and volunteers of FRCs who frequently come across such traumatic situations.

Compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress disorder, is a natural but disruptive consequence of working with traumatised clients (Figley, 1995, 2002). 

 

The good news is that it is preventable and treatable; however, "if unaddressed, the symptoms can result in problems with mental and physical health, strained personal relationships, and poor work performance" (Pryce, Shackelford, & Pryce, 2007).

At work Compassion Fatigue may:

  • Reduce productivity and the quality of work produced

  • Hinder the ability to deal with challenging situations in a professional way 

  • Contribute to staff conflict and diminish team spirit

  • Reduce cooperation among staff

  • Increase absenteeism and drive staff turnover

  • Limit staff's capacity to make proper, often difficult yet necessary judgments

Organisational Compassion Fatigue Prevention Strategies for FRCs to consider:

  • Create an organisational culture that formalises a comprehensive response to Compassion Fatigue

  • Openly address and recognise the possible impact and effects on the health and wellbeing of staff and volunteers when working with clients who are suffering the consequence of trauma. 

  • Create, implement, and promote policies that encourage and actively support self-care

  • Allocate varying workloads and rotate staff responsibilities

  • Encourage professional development

  • Increase organisational involvement in social change, public advocacy, and community outreach

  • Ensure a safe, supportive, understanding work environment 

  • Encourage open work-related discussion among staff and administrators.

  • Promote staff counselling support programs 

  • Provide Compassion Fatigue Education  

Having worked within the community sector, our trainer Mary Mulcahy has a unique perspective and understanding of the difficulties faced by the management, staff, and volunteers of FRCs. Mary has experience dealing with demanding situations, helping clients with complex problems, supporting people suffering the effects of trauma and coping with the uncertainty and unpredictability of outcomes.

 

With all this in mind, Mary is in the process of developing a new training program for all Family Resource Centres. This training will establish a cohesive intervention to support staff in combat compassion fatigue and help FRC devise and implement a compassion fatigue prevention strategy. 

This training will help participants to: 

  • Define compassion fatigue in the context of Family Resource Centres

  • Foster an understanding and acceptance that compassion fatigue is an issue within FRCS

  • Drive the implementation of a cohesive strategy within FRCs to combat compassion fatigue

  • Develop strategies that will help participants recognise and alleviate compassion fatigue symptoms to minimise the impact on their health and wellbeing 

  • Support their learning and development around compassion fatigue

The National Forum Training Subcommittee and other credible associated professionals supervise and support this program's development. The training will be evidence-based and include best practice guidelines. 

 

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