An investigation of the prevalence of compassion fatigue, compassion satisfaction and burnout in those working in animal-related occupations using the Professional Quality of Life (ProQoL) Scale

Rebekah L Scotney
June 2019

Background: Animal-related occupational stress and compassion fatigue are important issues as they can have a negative impact on employee mental wellbeing, workplace productivity and morale. The impacts of these conditions are notable and have become more recognised by those who are employed in animal-related occupations. Aims: This study aims to investigate the incidence of compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue (burnout and secondary traumatic stress) in those working in animal-related occupations using the Professional Quality of Life (ProQoL) Scale. Methods: Data were collected from 229 employees from a range of animal-related occupations using an anonymous self-report survey. Results: Most respondents were employed in veterinary practice (either veterinarians or veterinary nurses/technicians) and 85% of all respondents were female. 42% of participants were between 26 and 35 years of age and, 71% had been working in animal-related occupations between 1 and 10 years. Most participants scored in the mean or top quartile on the compassion satisfaction scale; however, about a quarter reported a score which indicated that they were deriving less satisfaction from their work. Low burnout was reported by 78% of participants; however, 21% of participants had a score which indicated that they were at higher risk of burnout. Low or average symptoms of secondary traumatic stress was reported by 74% of participants; however, 25.8% were at risk of secondary traumatic stress. While most of the surveyed population scored in the mean or top quartile on the compassion satisfaction scale, all of the occupational categories reported experiencing the negative aspects of caring: burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Conclusion: The prevalence of compassion fatigue demonstrated in these results should be a major concern in animal-related occupations and thus, be used as a beneficial, contextualised resource to inform resilience training programmes and preventative strategies specifically targeted towards those working in animal-related occupations.

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