Compassion Fatigue can happen anywhere, even in general practice. I have spent the last 13 years focusing on referral practice, so my perspective is affected I’m sure. I KNOW for a fact that compassion fatigue plays a big role in many of the referral services such as emergency, critical care, internal medicine, oncology, and even surgery. I do not doubt it plays a part, even if smaller, in other specialties such as dermatology or ophthalmology, perhaps even behavior. But what about general practice?
When I began my journey to bring The Cat Out Of The Bag with compassion fatigue in our profession, I didn’t know what to expect from general practice. Would they find this information useful? Can they relate? Is it affecting their practices? Then I was invited to speak for technician and veterinarian associations across the country. All of these organizations are primarly general practice, and they WANT this topic! They NEED to hear about compassion fatigue! If it’s out there, I want to find it too, and do my part to help.
So, if you think you may be somewhat protected from compassion fatigue because you are in general practice, you may be wrong. You still see heartbreaking cases, particularly when a puppy you met 10 years ago is now saying his last goodbye at your practice. You have relationships with these people and these pets, and it is within the context of these relationships that compassion fatigue lingers.
From the human medical profession we have this quote, and it applies to us with furry patients as well:
Burnout results from stresses that arise from the clinician’s interaction with the work environment, while compassion fatigue evolves specifically from the relationship between the clinician and the patient [and client, in our case].
This is powerful, and illustrates the fact that no one is safe from compassion fatigue.