Do You Have Compassion Fatigue?

5982590252_cab6303486_nAre you a cross-cultural worker in a “caring profession”? Are you a member-care giver or coach to someone who works cross-culturally? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the needs of those you’re helping, pouring out more and more from a reservoir that is going dry? Has your compassion satisfaction turned into compassion fatigue?

A few weeks ago I attended a day-long workshop entitled “Resilience Strategies for Educators: Techniques for Self-Care and Peer Support.” It was offered to our community in Joplin, Missouri, because of the ongoing effects—felt by educators and students—of the May 22 tornado, two years ago.

I am very interested in how the vocabulary and strategies used by the facilitators, Arthur Cummins (Orange County Department of Education) and Stephen Hydon (University of Southern California), parallel what I’ve heard presented by those in member care for cross-cultural workers. One of their goals was to give us “tools” for our “toolbox,” and I’d like to share one of those tools with you: the “Professional Quality of Life Scale,” or ProQOL.

The ProQOL measures “compassion satisfaction” and “compassion fatigue,” with the latter category further broken down into “burnout” and “secondary trauma.”

I have included the ProQOL Measure below. As you can see, it uses the generic terms help and helper, but they can be substituted with words to better fit a given audience. A printable version, along with scoring instructions, is available here. The ProQOL Measure in 17 non-English languages (versions vary) can be downloaded here. And the 2010 edition of the “The Concise ProQOL Manual,” explaining the background and interpretation of scores is here.

For those interested in more information on compassion fatigue and trauma stress, try these sites:

If you use the scale, I hope that you find you’re doing well, but if the results show that you have compassion fatigue, I hope you can find the rest and help you need.

Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL)

Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue (ProQOL) Version 5 (2009)

When you [help] people you have direct contact with their lives. As you may have found, your compassion for those you [help] can affect you in positive and negative ways. Below are some questions about your experiences, both positive and negative, as a [helper]. Consider each of the following questions about you and your current work situation. Select the number that honestly reflects how frequently you experienced these things in the last 30 days.

1=Never    2=Rarely    3=Sometimes    4=Often    5=Very Often

___ 1. I am happy.
___ 2. I am preoccupied with more than one person I [help].
___ 3. I get satisfaction from being able to [help] people.
___ 4. I feel connected to others.
___ 5. I jump or am startled by unexpected sounds.
___ 6. I feel invigorated after working with those I [help].
___ 7. I find it difficult to separate my personal life from my life as a [helper].
___ 8. I am not as productive at work because I am losing sleep over traumatic experiences of a person I [help].
___ 9. I think that I might have been affected by the traumatic stress of those I [help].
___ 10. I feel trapped by my job 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 because of the traumatic experiences of the people I [help].
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. I feel worn out because of my work as a [helper].
20. I have happy thoughts and feelings about those I [help] and how I could help them.
___ 21. I feel overwhelmed because my case [work] load seems endless.
___ 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 people I [help].
___ 24. I am proud of what I can do to [help].
___ 25. As a result of my [helping], I have intrusive, 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 recall important parts of my work with trauma victims.
___ 29. I am a very caring person.
___ 30. I am happy that I chose to do this work.

(After completing the scale, go here for the self-scoring guide.)

© B. Hudnall Stamm, 2009. Professional Quality of Life: Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Version 5 (ProQOL). /www. isu. edu/~bhstamm or www. proqol. org. This test may be freely copied as long as (a) author is credited, (b) no changes are made, and (c) it is not sold.

[photo: “I Think I’ll Start a New Life,” by Noukka Signe, used under a Creative Commons license]


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