Compassion fatigue and psychological distress among social workers: a validation study

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2006 Jan;76(1):103-8. doi: 10.1037/0002-9432.76.1.103.


Few studies have focused on caring professionals and their emotional exhaustion from working with traumatized clients, referred to as compassion fatigue (CF). The present study had 2 goals: (a) to assess the psychometric properties of a CF scale, and (b) to examine the scale's predictive validity in a multivariate model. The data came from a survey of social workers living in New York City following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Factor analyses indicated that the CF scale measured multiple dimensions. After overlapping items were eliminated, the scale measured 2 key underlying dimensions--secondary trauma and job burnout. In a multivariate model, these dimensions were related to psychological distress, even after other risk factors were controlled. The authors discuss the results in light of increasing the ability of professional caregivers to meet the emotional needs of their clients within a stressful environment without experiencing CF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Support
  • Social Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*