I define compassion fatigue as a palette of grief® where there is a blending of physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and spiritual reactions due to empathetic engagement with those who are grieving or traumatized while neglecting one’s own self-care. Compassion fatigue can occur after one exposure to traumatic material or many exposures to traumatic material. This can occur whether working with adults, children, or animals. When a person works in a field where they are exposed to another person’s suffering, they can experience a change in their mental and physical state.
Compassion fatigue and job satisfaction
When a person experiences compassion fatigue they may no longer be satisfied with their job. There is a link between job satisfaction and compassion satisfaction. The more job satisfaction one has, the less compassion fatigue that they will have. If people are not satisfied with their job, there is a higher chance of increased absenteeism or leaving the field that they once loved.
When a person cares about traumatized people or those who are suffering, they need to recognize the compassion fatigue definition, as it guides them as they offer an empathetic presence. First responders, those who work in the courts, health care professionals, clinicians, and victim advocates, are caring and compassionate individuals. From the very first day on the job, they need to be mindful of their personal wellbeing.
Helpers impacted by compassion fatigue often see and hear things that most people would have a difficult time seeing or hearing. Helpers are often exposed to those who are grieving or traumatized, and that experience can take a toll. When they are dedicated and want to help those who experience pain or sorrow, they can become exhausted by that interaction and experience acute symptoms that challenge their physical and mental health. For that reason, helpers need to identify ways compassion fatigue affects their overall health.
When a helper is compassionate, they may choose to work extra shifts, or not take days off from work. It is imperative that they do self-care to manage compassion fatigue symptoms that can disrupt their life. Symptoms include disrupted sleep which might cause them to be tired while doing their job.