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What are Some Protective Factors that Can Help Prevent Compassion Fatigue from Occurring?

Kathy Pillow-Price, EdD

August 6, 2021

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Question

What are some protective factors that can help prevent compassion fatigue from occurring?

Answer

One protective factor that is important to note is that although there are risks to working in the helping field, there is also a lot of satisfaction that you can derive from your work. This is referred to as compassion satisfaction. It is defined as the pleasure and satisfaction or the positive feelings derived from working in helping caregiving systems. It is when you get to contribute to society and you help others achieve wellbeing. It is believed that compassion satisfaction is a protective factor that prevents burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma.

People who work with trauma survivors have identified things like personal growth, spiritual connection, hope, and respect for human resiliency as positive outcomes of their work. I know when I called my pastor when I bottomed out, I apologized for calling him. I did not want to bother anyone. He said some beautiful words. He told me, “It is an honor that you have called me. It is an honor to listen to you. It is an honor to walk through this journey with you.”

Ensuring individual and organizational protective factors are in place will enhance compassion satisfaction. Here are some protective factors that organizations and individuals should have in place to prevent compassion fatigue from occurring.

Organizations

  • Positive relationships within agency
  • Early identification of workers dealing with stress
  • Resources available for staff
  • Client-centered practice
  • Issues are dealt with constructively and effectively
  • Communication is open and clear
  • Opportunities for staff to learn and grow

Individuals

  • Self-awareness
  • Able to ask for help and/or get support
  • Balance between home and work
  • Personal strategies in place for self-care
  • Open to learning and growing
  • Are optimistic
  • Able to set boundaries at work and home

I want you to take a look at this list and see if you can pick one thing that your organization does really well and one thing that you are doing really well as an individual in order to protect yourself. Think about these questions.

  • Is your organization good with positive relationships and early identification of dealing with stress?
  • Do they provide resources for their staff?
  • Is communication open and clear?
  • How about you as an individual? How are you doing?
  • Are you self-aware?
  • Are you able to ask for help and get support?
  • Do you balance work and home?
  • Do you have personal strategies in place for self-care?
  • Are you open to learning and growing?
  • How optimistic are you?
  • How are your boundaries?

I share this information because I want to make it clear that everyone, including organizations, supervisors, and individuals has a role in protecting everyone from compassion fatigue.

This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Caring for Yourself While Caring for Otherspresented by Kathy Pillow-Price, EdD.


kathy pillow price

Kathy Pillow-Price, EdD

Dr. Kathy Pillow-Price has spent most of her professional career working to improve the lives of children and families. She is a nationally known expert in the field of early childhood education and is a frequent presenter at regional and national events. After years teaching and working in higher education, she currently works in an executive grant management role. She has a master's degree in Early Childhood Education and a doctorate in Educational Leadership.


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