As I make my way around the circuit of veterinary conferences, it’s interesting the reactions I receive when I mention that I talk on Compassion Fatigue. Some people know immediately what I’m referring to, either because they’ve heard the phrase before OR they simply realize that the topic’s name is self explanatory. This is particularly true of veterinary technicians, who often times have personal experience with the condition whether they knew it’s name or not.
Some people when they hear compassion fatigue, are a little more perplexed. A curious expression comes across their face, and I offer a bit more: “it’s the emotional cost that we bear from being in a care giving profession.” Oh, then they get it. Oftentimes these folks are veterinarians, who may inadvertently think that their training and education has bestowed some sort of magical protection from compassion fatigue. Yet when they pause to think of it, they realize that whatever immunity they may have had has long since dissipated, and they are therefore vulnerable.
The most difficult group to convince is the administrative team — the reception team and practice management. They can understand how the medical team may be subject to this emotional cost because they see them as the medical “care givers” in the truest sense of the word. So often they need to be reminded of how the elements of compassion fatigue also reach the front office and into the manger’s office. They provide “care giving” to the clients and to the practice team, and because they have often joined the profession with the goal of helping animals just like everyone else on the team, they are subject to compassion fatigue as well.
We will continue to explore the effects of compassion fatigue on each position, and how we can help heal ourselves and our practices.