Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

An Examination of Resilience, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction between Men and Women among Trauma Responders

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

An Examination of Resilience, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction between Men and Women among Trauma Responders

Article excerpt

Due to the emotional and traumatic nature of disasters and other critical incidents, the need for effective disaster behavioral health (DBH) responders is in high demand (see Raphael, 1986). For instance, Galea, Nandi and Vlahov (2005) suggest that 30-40% of directly exposed disaster survivors will experience one or more mental health disorders (i.e., PTSD, depression or anxiety). Therefore, professionals working in this field are called upon to provide assistance and critical care to individuals who have experienced trauma directly. Unfortunately, the psychological consequences of traumatic events tend to exhibit a "ripple effect" which can also affect the DBH professionals who respond to provide crisis mental health support services (Myers & Wee, 2005). Even though these critical incident responders do not experience the trauma directly, their indirect exposure can often lead to compassion fatigue and burnout (Figley, 2002; Jacobson, 2012; Sabin-Farrell & Turpin, 2003; Sprang, Clark, & Whitt-Woosley, 2007), as well as inhibit them from effectively providing the assistance and care that is demanded by their profession (Boscarino, Figley, & Adams, 2004). However, factors such as compassion satisfaction and various levels of resilience have been found to be crucial in buffering the harmful effects of compassion fatigue and burnout (Burnett, 2017; Burnett & Wahl, 2015). Although it is clear that both men and women experience these negative results to some extent, the question arises as to whether one gender is more susceptible to these negative consequences of indirect trauma.

Compassion Fatigue, Compassion Satisfaction, and Burnout

Professionals that work with victims of trauma are at risk for experiencing compassion fatigue. Joinson (1992) defined the concept of compassion fatigue (CF) in nurses as a type of burnout that their profession set them up for and of which they would almost likely experience at some point. Caring for others resulted in feelings of frustration and helplessness often causing nurses to dissociate from their own emotions. Figley (1995) explained CF as an individual's stress response to knowledge of someone else's experience with a traumatizing event. This stress stemmed from the desire to help or relieve the suffering of the traumatized individual. Ultimately, Figley summed up compassion fatigue as "the cost of caring" (p.1) that could negatively impact the trauma responder.

The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) views compassion fatigue as having two major components: Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) and Burnout (BO). STS refers to "work-related, secondary exposure to people who have experienced extremely or traumatically stressful events" (Stamm, 2010, p.13). The symptomatology of STS reflects those experienced by individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These symptoms include intrusive thoughts and/or imagery related to an individual's traumatic experience; sleep disturbance (i.e. vivid, recurrent nightmares); persistent psychological arousal which may lead to intrusions or emotional numbing (Solberg, Birkeland, Blix, Hansen, & Heir, 2016); and avoidant responses to trauma related material, causing an interference with the natural recovery process (Bride, Robinson, Yegidis, &Figley, 2004; Cieslak et al., 2014; Figley, 1995; Pineles et al., 2011). Burnout within the occupational stress literature typically describes emotional consequences specific to individuals involved in "people work" or working intensely with other people's problems. Burnout has been conceptualized as a defensive response to occupational exposure often involving demanding interpersonal situations that cause mental strain and provide inadequate support (Jenkins & Baird, 2005). According to Meadors and colleagues (2009), much of the mental strain from burnout has been found to be organizationally related (administration, paperwork, details, etc.) rather than operationally related (dealing with victims, danger, trauma, etc. …

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