Police trauma encounters: precursors of compassion fatigue

Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2004 Spring;6(2):75-80.


Given frequent assignments of responding to critical situations, police officers are a high-risk population for exposure to traumatic stress. It was hypothesized that types and increased frequencies of certain traumas lead to increased risk for PTSD symptoms and eventually to a state of compassion fatigue through secondary processes. Compassion fatigue was conceptualized as the cost of caring without reward or result. Results indicated that the homicide of another officer in the line of duty and dealing with victims of serious crime resulted in the greatest increased risk of trauma symptoms. Gender differences were found in trauma risk, with women officers experiencing higher risk from dealing with abused children. and male officers experiencing higher risk due to shooting incidents where officers were involved. It was concluded that increased frequency and type of traumas, especially those occurring to other co-workers and those associated with gender, may eventually lead to a secondary process of emotional compassion fatigue. Available strategies for prevention are discussed

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Empathy*
  • Fatigue / diagnosis
  • Fatigue / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Police*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*