My experience with compassion fatigue, a bit of an epiphany. What is your experience?
You may be aware in other industries the average annual turnover is 13-15%. In the veterinary community it is an ALARMING 29%, nearly DOUBLED! In my view, lack of understanding and under diagnosing compassion fatigue is a driver for the high turnover.
While attending the WVC last spring I experienced a bit of an epiphany. I spoke with a veterinary technician (we will call her Lisa) who originally sought advice on a career move, however I soon discovered she was suffering from extreme compassion fatigue. She confided in me about how she use to be a stellar, compassionate veterinary technician. Now, she was careless, unforgiving, defiant and beyond burnout. It was the first time I saw the despair, confusion and inability to find a light at the end of the tunnel. I was so saddened by the conversation and the realization. It wasn’t only her current state, but also that of the entire team and moral. Lisa went on to explain how her owner/manager was essentially hanging on to her and the entire team was suffering from the toxic environment, a situation that was perpetuating itself.
I had to head to another commitment before I could fully understand or help Lisa. I truly felt helpless and unable to assist her. Later that evening, I spoke with two dear friends about my recent experience with Lisa. Both are technicians who had fallen prey to compassion fatigue, were able to identify it, pull themselves out of it and continue to thrive in their career in the veterinary industry. They could both empathize and sympathize with Lisa’s story and both attempted to contact her.
This is where I have no specific answer, although I now SEE the underlying problem, better. If I were managing Lisa without the understanding of compassion fatigue, I would have thrown the employee manual at her, stating these are the standards and expectations of the job. She would continue to fail and I would have eventually fired her, plain and simple. Now, if I were managing a team, we would train on identifying both burn-out and compassion fatigue. We would tackle the challenge with a vengeance, together!
I can offer tools, at this point. Following are resources you can offer your team and begin educating yourself on compassion fatigue. The first class I took was offered by HSUS in Denver in 2002 titled Self Help Improvement Plan to Address Compassion Fatigue. That was 10 years ago and I just now GOT IT as a management challenge AND a management opportunity!
My next blog will be titled something like this: ”Self-Care, Essentials for the Long Haul”
Compassion Fatigue Resources
FREE seminar on VetMedTeam: WHEN CARING HURTS: MANAGING COMPASSION FATIGUE http://www.vetmedteam.com/class.aspx?id=376
Burnout vs Compassion Fatigue: http://www.katherinedobbs.com/
Certification in Compassion Fatigue: http://psychink.com/training-
When Helping Hurts: https://www.aahanet.org/Store/