Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and critical incident stress management

Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2003 Winter;5(1):33-7.


This study examines the potential for compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout in a sample of persons attending a workshop on Prevention of Compassion Fatigue at an international conference of providers of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services. In the study, more than half (58%) of the respondents reported experiencing psychological reactions after providing CISM services, including an array of behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms of psychological stress. Forty percent of respondents were found to have moderate, high, or extremely high risk for compassion fatigue. At the same time, 89% of respondents were found to have a good, high, or extremely high potential for compassion satisfaction, and 87% were found to be at extremely low risk for burnout. The results appear to indicate that, while the CISM practitioners recognize the stress associated with their work (as reflected in the reported symptoms), the work provides significant rewards (as measured by compassion satisfaction) that outweigh the stress and mitigate against burnout. Likewise, while 40% tested positive for compassion fatigue (or secondary traumatic stress) as a result of their empathy with CISM recipients, the rewards of the work again appear to mitigate the negative effects of the work. Implications for future research and practice are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Crisis Intervention / methods*
  • Empathy*
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires