JOURNAL ARTICLE

Compassion fatigue: experiences in occupational health, human resources, counselling and police

Noreen Tehrani
Occupational Medicine 2010, 60 (2): 133-8
20035002

BACKGROUND: This study examines the impact that working with distressed employees, clients and members of the public has on four caring professions: occupational health advisors (OHAs), human resource advisors (HRs), counsellors (CLs) and family liaison officers (FLOs).

AIMS: To measure the levels of compassion fatigue in caring professions and to identify the mechanisms that lead to increased levels of personal growth.

METHODS: Two hundred and seventy-six professionals (64 HRs, 53 OHAs, 114 CLs and 45 FLOs) completed the Carer Belief Inventory (CBI) (Tehrani, N. The cost of caring-the impact of secondary trauma on assumptions values and beliefs. Couns Psychol Q 2007;20:1-15.) and Short-Form of the Goldberg questionnaire (Goldberg D, Bridges K, Duncan-Jones P, Grayson D. Detecting anxiety and depression in a general medical setting. Br Med J 1988;297:897-899). The participants in the study were attendees at presentations or training courses on employee wellbeing. Survey involved in the study also measured sources of support and coping mechanism.

RESULTS: There were few differences in the level of negative beliefs between groups, although CLs were found to experience more feelings of isolation and FLOs and CLs were more likely to believe that there was no justice in the world. OHAs, CLs and FLOs were significantly more likely to demonstrate personal growth than HRs. Reflection on the work facilitated through professional or peer supervision and a healthy lifestyle was found to be associated with higher levels of personal growth and satisfaction with their performance at work.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that the provision of professional or peer supervision may be helpful in increasing reflection and 'sense making' leading to personal development and growth. Other forms of support that were found to be helpful included taking exercise, healthy eating and engaging in a hobby.

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