Compassion Fatigue, also known as Secondary Trauma, comes from working in situations where you are exposed to traumas regularly, but not necessarily the victim (hence "secondary"). It is related to Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) and occurs for doctors, emergency response teams, firefighters, religious leaders, counselors, and yes, animal rescuers. Those in animal shelters have an additional stressor, Euthanasia Related Stress (ERS) because our field is totally unique in being the only career in which it is our job to both save, and end, the lives of the same "patients".
The quiz below will help you determine if you are suffering from Compassion Fatigue. If you find you are, please speak to your employer, a counselor, or a trusted friend to find help and keep yourself healthy!
Consider each of the following questions about you and your current situation. Write the number that honestly shows how often the statement has been true for you in the last 30 days.
0 = Never, 1 = Rarely, 2 = A Few Times, 3 = Somewhat Often, 4 = Often, 5 = Very Often
___ 1. I am happy
___ 2. I am preoccupied with more than one animal I help.
___ 3. I get satisfaction from being able to help animals.
___ 4. I feel connected to others.
___ 5. I jump or am startled by unexpected sounds.
___ 6. I have more energy after working with those I help.
___ 7. I find it difficult to separate my private life from my life as a helper.
___ 8. I am losing sleep over a person I help's traumatic experiences.
___ 9. I think that I might have been "infected" by the traumatic stress of those I help.
___ 10. I feel trapped by my work as a helper.
___ 11. Because of my helping, I have felt "on edge" about various things.
___ 12. I like my work as a helper.
___ 13. I feel depressed as a result of my work as a helper.
___ 14. I feel as though I am experiencing the trauma of someone I have helped.
___ 15. I have beliefs that sustain me.
___ 16. I am pleased with how I am able to keep up with helping techniques and protocols.
___ 17. I am the person I always wanted to be.
___ 18. My work makes me feel satisfied.
___ 19. Because of my work as a helper, I feel exhausted.
___ 20. I have happy thoughts and feelings about those I help and how I could help them.
___ 21. I feel overwhelmed by the amount of work or the size of my caseload I have to deal with.
___ 22. I believe I can make a difference through my work.
___ 23. I avoid certain activities or situations because they remind me of frightening experiences of the animals I help.
___ 24. I plan to be a helper for a long time.
___ 25. As a result of my helping, I have sudden, unwanted, frightening thoughts.
___ 26. I feel "bogged down" by the system.
___ 27. I have thoughts that I am a success as a helper.
___ 28. I can't remember important parts of my work with trauma victims.
___ 29. I am an unduly sensitive person.
___ 30. I am happy that I chose to do this work.
1. Be certain you respond to all items.
2. On some items, the scores need to be reversed. Next to your response, write the reverse of that score:
0 = 0, 1 = 5, 2 = 4, 3 = 3, 4 = 2, 5 = 1
Reverse the score on these five items: 1, 4, 15, 17, and 29. The reverse scores are to be used in your total, not your original response. 0 is not reversed because it is a null value regardless of the direction of the item.
3. You will be adding up three different scores - Compassion Satisfaction, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue/Secondary Trauma. Remember that scoring is based on theoretical cut-points derived from ongoing research and are approximations only. If you have any concerns, you should discuss them with a physical or mental health care provider.
a) Compassion Satisfaction: Add your answers for items 3, 6, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30
Compassion Satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well. For example, you may feel like it is a pleasure to help others through your work. You may feel positively about your colleagues or your ability to contribute to the work setting or even the greater good of society. Higher scores on this scale represent a greater satisfaction related to your ability to be an effective caregiver in your job.
The average score is 37. About 25% of people score higher than 41, and about 25% score below 32. If you are in the higher range, you probably derive a good deal of professional satisfaction from your position. If your scores are below 32, you may either find problems with your job, or there may be some other reason - for example you might derive your satisfaction from activities other than your job.
b) Burnout: Add your answers for items 1, 4, 8, 10, 15, 17, 19, 21, 26, 29
Most people have an intuitive idea of what burnout is. From the research perspective, burnout is associated with feelings of hopelessness and difficulties in dealing with work or in doing your job effectively. These negative feelings usually have a gradual onset. They can reflect the feeling that your efforts make no difference, or they can be associated with a very high workload or a non-supportive work environment. Higher scores on this scale mean that you are at higher risk for burnout.
The average score on the burnout scale is 23. About 25% of people score above 28 and about 25% of people score below 19. If your score is below 19, this probably reflects positive feelings about your ability to be effective in your work. If you score above 28, you may wish to think about what at work makes you feel like you are not effective in your position. Your score may reflect your mood; perhaps you were having a "bad day" or are in need of some time off. If the high score persists or if it is reflective of other worries, it may be a cause for concern.
c) Compassion Fatigue/Secondary Trauma: Add your answers for items 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 23, 25, 28
Compassion Fatigue is about your work-related, secondary exposure to extremely stressful events. For example, you may repeatedly hear stories about the traumatic things that happen to other people. This is called Vicarious Trauma. If your work puts you directly in the path of danger, such as being a soldier or humanitarian aide worker, this is not secondary exposure - your exposure is primary. However, if you are exposed to others' traumatic events as a result of your work, such as in an emergency room or working with child protective services, this is secondary exposure. The symptoms of CF/ST are usually rapid in onset and associated with a particular event. They may include being afraid, having difficulty sleeping, having images of the upsetting event pop into your mind, or avoiding things that remind you of the event.
The average score on this scale is 13. About 25% of people score below 8 and about 25% of people score above 17. If your score is above 17, you may want to take some time to think about what at work may be frightening to you, or if tere is some other reason for the elevated score. While higher scores do not mean that you do have a problem, they are an indication that you may wish to examine how you feel about your work and your work environment. You may wish to discuss this with your supervisor, a colleague, or a health care professional.
copyright B. Hudnall Stamm, Professional Quality of Life: Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Subscales-III, 1995 - 2002