Stress and compassion fatigue in veterinary nurses in New Zealand


Background: Stress and compassion fatigue are widely acknowledged as prevalent in workers in ‘caring’ roles, however this has not been widely documented in New Zealand veterinary nurses. Aim: This project aimed to investigate the prevalence of stress and compassion fatigue in New Zealand veterinary nurses. Method: Using an online survey, veterinary nurses were asked to self-report their incidence of stress or compassion fatigue felt as a result of their working environment. Veterinary nurses were also asked to report the ways in which they cope with stress and compassion fatigue, and their likelihood of changing jobs. Results: There were 288 responses to the survey. Of these, 94% of respondents reported feeling stressed and 82% reported experiencing compassion fatigue as a result of their work. 30% of respondents reported an increase in the consumption of alcohol/cigarettes and drugs as a result of stress. Most respondents reported managing their stress and compassion fatigue by talking to colleagues or family. A large number of respondents reported having considered a career change at some stage due to stress or compassion fatigue. Conclusion: This research demonstrates a high incidence of stress and compassion fatigue in New Zealand veterinary nurses, with a low percentage of those seeking professional support. Further investigation into combatable causal factors for stress as it differs from compassion fatigue is warranted to ultimately offer support to veterinary nurses to continue their vocation.

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