by Turpin Mott
CHIEF COMMUNITY OFFICER
WELLNESS & SELF-CARE · October 20th, 2020
All caregivers are prone to compassion fatigue. It affects those who care the most – the ones who frequently put others before themselves. Caring well requires a lot of empathy and the ability to understand the feelings of others consistently. And while being compassionate is honorable, it can be emotionally overwhelming and physically exhausting if not managed properly.
Given the nature of the work, the veterinary community is especially affected by compassion fatigue. I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s the only profession sanctioned to euthanize patients, and caregivers can sometimes take on the emotional burden of a client’s agony. This reality, coupled with the demands of running a business and leading a team of caregivers, can rapidly lead to compassion fatigue and eventually burnout.
Like other stress conditions, compassion fatigue can affect many dimensions of well-being and manifest in a wide range of symptoms that impact the whole person. These may include:
|Exhaustion||Decreased cognitive ability||Anxiety||Loss of hope, meaning, identity|
|Sleep disturbance||Impaired judgement and decision-making||Emotional volatility||Isolation and loss of morale|
|Impaired behavior||Trouble concentrating||Quick to anger, be irritable||Negative worldview|
It’s quite a list. The good news is, if recognized and managed early, compassion fatigue can be relieved.
The American Institute of Stress provides a memorable acronym (ABC) for three ways to prevent compassion fatigue—Awareness, Balance, Connection:
Pay attention to alterations in your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. If you are experiencing any potential compassion fatigue symptoms at or outside work, look internally and externally to assess their causes.
If you become aware that you may be heading toward or are experiencing compassion fatigue, take action to restore balance and strengthen your connections.
Strengthen your relations with supportive people who are capable of really “being there” for you.
Of course, combating compassion fatigue is easier said than done. It takes real commitment and understanding of your own behaviors. But always know you are never alone. The Community Team continues to develop various self-care resources to support our caregivers and prevent compassion fatigue and burnout.
If you are looking for some more accessible support, our PawCasts videos provide self-care tips, tools, and exercises to handle difficult situations and maintain a positive and supportive attitude. These sessions address a different realm of the whole person—the four aspects of ourselves that must balance optimal well-being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Each 15-minute video begins with an introduction to the specific practices you will experience.
Growth and Well-Being Retreats
The Community Team also hosts four-day retreats to support caregivers’ well-being. Each of the three retreat-style programs is designed to provide veterinarians, technicians, hospital managers, pet resort managers, and other caregivers with an opportunity for reflection and development.
At these retreats, you will discover how to:
We also offer virtual sessions to support you and your team. For more information, talk to your division’s leadership or email us at Community-Team@NVA.com.
Maintaining connections to the people we care about helps improve our personal wellness.
by Turpin Mott