Here, at Community Services Group (CSG), we believe in empowering individuals to reach their fullest potential. This is why we ensure that all of our employees have all the training and tools necessary to foster every beautiful mind we encounter. One of the most frequently discussed topics in regards to training is compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a challenge that is often experienced at the caregiver level but is something that, with the right resources, can be dealt with accordingly. In this article, we will look at what compassion fatigue is, who it can affect and how proper training and resources can help in taking protective measures to assist in dealing with compassion fatigue.
First and foremost, let us define what compassion fatigue is exactly. According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, compassion fatigue is defined as “a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create secondary traumatic stress for the helper.” However, it should be noted that compassion fatigue is very different from burnout. Burnout occurs when the person feels overwhelmed and emotionally worn out. It is the cumulative result of stress. On the other hand, compassion fatigue results in chronic stress with vicarious/secondary trauma.
Studies have shown that more and more caregivers are prone to experiencing compassion fatigue as a result of their environments. They are constantly surrounded by situations that present emotional challenges day in and day out. Compassion fatigue is something that develops over time and can move through four different phases. The first phase is known as the zealot phase, where the caregiver is fully involved and always willing to go the extra mile to assist those in their care and otherwise. Soon they move into the irritability phase where they may begin to cut corners, make oversights and mistakes, and distance themselves from their co-workers. Following irritability comes the withdrawal phase. In this phase, the employee’s enthusiasm turns sour, they complain about both work and personal life, and they become chronically tired. The final phase of compassion fatigue is called the zombie phase. In this phase hopelessness turns into rage, others appear incompetent or ignorant, and they begin to develop a real disdain for their clients. Compassion fatigue is a problem not just for those directly affected by it, but those they interact with on a daily basis. Many of these symptoms can become “contagious” and be a real detriment to the morale and engagement of your team. This is why it’s so important to be aware of this debilitating issue in your workplace. Once you begin to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue, you can begin to take the steps to work through the emotions associated with compassion fatigue. It will become extremely important to ensure you and your team remain self-aware and begin to factor in self-care practices into your daily lives. Asking for help and support during this period of time is also vital to the path of recovery as there may be individuals or resources out there that can help in recognizing and working through these feelings. Also, know that your place of employment is ready and available to assist in ensuring individuals are taking the proper precautions to avoid compassion fatigue. They can to lighten caseloads and provide other resources outside of home life to help.
At CSG we are committed to ensuring that our caregivers are well equipped with the resources and knowledge to help them identify compassion fatigue and the best ways to cope. We feel it is extremely important to ensure that our employees enjoy a work-life balance that allows them to disconnect and practice moments of self-care. To learn more about compassion fatigue and other services we offer, please visit our website at csgonline.org.