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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

02 June 2019
20 mins read
Volume 10 · Issue 5



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.


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.


Data were collected from 229 employees from a range of animal-related occupations using an anonymous self-report survey.


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.


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.

There has been an increase in recognition of work-related mental health disorders affecting all industries and professions worldwide (Australian Safety and Compensation Council, 2006). With an estimated cost of AUD$200 million dollars annually (USD$142M), workers' compensation claims for stress-related mental disorders in Australia are on an upward trajectory. Data collected by Work Safe Australia show not only an increase in workers' compensation claims for stress-related conditions and mental disorders (5700 in 1997/98 to 8260 in 2004/05), but also in the duration of claims where median time lost for mental disorders suffered at work rose from 6.8 weeks in 1997/98 to 9.7 weeks per claim in 2004/05 (Guthrie et al, 2010). Mental stress is understood to be the foremost causative factor of work-related mental disorders in Australia, with ‘exposure to a traumatic event’ and ‘work pressure’ being the most commonly reported mechanisms (Australian Safety and Compensation Council, 2006).

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