Helping professionals are at high risk of being affected by the negative aspects of helping such as compassion fatigue. To date, no study has provided a comprehensive overview of compassion fatigue and compared the prevalence among different helping professions.
The aim of this study was to explore the prevalence and differences in compassion fatigue among different helping professions. We also wanted to explore the relationship between compassion, self-compassion, self-criticism and compassion fatigue.
Six hundred and seven participants working in the helping professions were recruited. The sample consisted of 102 nurses, 44 doctors, 57 paramedics, 39 home nurses, 66 teachers, 103 psychologists, 40 psychotherapists and coaches, 76 social workers, 39 priests and pastors and 41 police officers. The data were collected using an online questionnaire battery measuring levels of compassion, self-compassion, self-criticism, compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction.
We found significant differences in compassion fatigue levels among various helping professions. No large differences were found in the compassion and self-compassion levels exhibited by professionals with medium versus low compassion fatigue scores. However, participants with higher levels of compassion fatigue scored higher in self-criticism. Self-criticism was found to be the best predictor of compassion fatigue. The effect of profession on compassion fatigue as mediated by self-criticism and self-compassion was significant.
Based on the results, we recommend designing programs to combat compassion fatigue that teach helping professionals to better manage their work time and workload (hours per week with clients/patients) and learn healthier inner talk (less self-critical and more self-compassionate).