Managing Compassion Fatigue
By Cheryl Lewis, CVPM, VNoC & VIoC Practice Administrator
With compassion fatigue, we reach a point where we care too much, or care too little. Only empathetic, caring people suffer from compassion fatigue -- and they are the very people who are so critical to our profession. It, no doubt, contributes to why, according to a recent study by the AVMA, 1 in 6 veterinarians has considered suicide.
Practice owners and managers should look for the following signs in employees/associates and themselves:
- dread of working with certain co-workers.
- decreased feelings of work competence.
- diminished sense of purpose.
- diminished enjoyment of career.
- dread of working with certain clients or situations.
VetMedTeam identifies the 4 R's of managing your compassion fatigue in their module available online.
- RECOGNIZE: The first step is to identify triggers and stressors.
- REDUCE: Once you've identified your triggers and stressors, reduce them in your day-to-day work life. Look for positive ways to fix a problem that triggers your compassion fatigue.
- RESTORE: Once you have recognized and taken steps to reduce your triggers, you must restore yourself to get you back to where you are able to do good work again. Good self care and new hobbies are great for re-charging.
- REPEAT: Due to the nature of our profession, curing compassion fatigue is not possible. Repeating this process periodically will help keep your compassion fatigue manageable.
*If feeling overwhelmed or out of control, seek professional assistance.*
Tips in Practice
- Lead by example: Follow the guidelines of work/life balance; take your vacation time; and don't overwork yourself. Encourage team members to do the same.
- Express concern for other team members general well-being. Ask how their weekends were, how family is, etc.
- If you're responsible for overseeing others who are exhibiting signs of compassion fatigue, share with them the steps to managing it. Be sure to let them know that you see and appreciate their efforts, and it is because they are caring and empathetic that they susceptible to compassion fatigue.
- Use SurveyMonkey—or a simple suggestion box—to solicit opinions, complaints, and suggestions in a positive way. Be sure to address them, as well.
- Suggest and attend off-site team-building events. Topics and activities should be non-work-related, and instead focused on everyone recharging and connecting!