Memorandum Date: January 3rd,2018To: Theresa MacvicarFrom: MatthewLindsaySubject: Reductionof Compassion Fatigue in Caring Professions The purpose of thismemo is to compare the compassion fatigue seen in the majority of caringprofessions and apply it to the paralegal profession and how they are similar.I interviewed Adrianne Robertson, a minister at Bethel Stone United Church, toinvestigate how handling compassion fatigue in caring professions can affecteveryday life and your moral in the workplace. The Interviewee: Adrianne Robertsonhas been a minister in the United Church of Canada for close to 25 years.
Beinga pastor, it is not uncommon to be dealing with families in grief, coupleshaving troubles in their marriage, or dealing with conflicts with the churchitself between congregation members. I felt she would be the perfect person toshare her experience and depth of knowledge in how these types of conflict canaffect you as a person, and how you can avoid allowing yourself to take onthese conflicts as a personal issue. Compassion Fatigue What is it and why do weexperience it? Compassion fatiguein essence is experiencing stress or anxiety from working with the people youare caring for. In any profession where personal or spiritual care is needed,it is sometimes easy to take on the issues that your patient, client orcongregation member can experience.
According to Harriet Hodgson, “Compassionfatigue is a type of stress caused by caring for others. Although burnoutdevelops over time, compassion fatigue comes on suddenly.” (Hodgson, 2016,para.2). This is not something that develops over time, Compassion fatigue isexperienced suddenly and in many professions within society.
According to Psychology Today, “86.9% of emergency responsepersonnel reported symptoms after being exposed to highly distressing eventswith traumatized people” (Babbel, 2012, para.2). These are just some of thesecondary sources that keyed me into what questions to ask Robertson in ourinterview. Within the interview, it was established that 3 key solutions could beused to reduce compassion fatigue in careers such as the legal profession.Though law and the pastoral care profession are different the compassionfatigue is very much the same. 3 Findings for Compassion Fatigue Relief The list ofsolutions I compiled through our interview were: – Knowing yourlimitations- Recognizingnegative reactions to distress- Practice self-careand seek therapy if needed Knowing your limitations: During theinterview, Robertson commented “The best way to deal with compassion fatigue isto know what your limits are when it comes to handling a stressful situation”(A.
Robertson, personal communication interview, December 30th,2017). By knowing what your limitations are in terms of handling a traumatic,distressing or harmful situation you must know where you need to break or getaway. Robertson explained that “In ministry, we often see when a family dealingwith someone close to them dying, and it can become easy to feel sad for them.But this does not mean you cannot help them in a professional and caringmanner” (A. Robertson, personal communication interview, December 30th,2017). The same principlecan apply in law as well. As Law Society members, we have a fiduciaryresponsibility to provide our clients with the best possible service andrepresentation when they come in with a legal issue. Francoise Mathieu, acompassion fatigue specialist suggests that a “trauma filter” to protectyourself from outside trauma factors can limit your amount of vicarious traumayou experience (Mathieu, 2007).
The key solution here is to know your limitswhen absorbing trauma and choosing when it is time for you to let go and removeyourself from the situation, to reduce compassion fatigue in your career. Recognizing Negative Reactions to Stress: Robertson during theinterview stated that “Taking on a person’s emotions is normal, but to make ityour own personal issue is not the way to help them” (A. Robertson, personalcommunication interview, December 30th, 2017). We addressed thisissue as I asked questions about how to avoid making people’s problem your own.In a caring profession, specifically ministry when you are providing spiritualguidance to congregants, or in health care providing medical care to patients,too often we see people coming home and blaming themselves for the problemsthat they deal with everyday.
According to Robertson “Too often minstersprovide counsel to other people, but would need therapy themselves too dealwith the problems they face” (A. Robertson, personal communication interview,December 30th, 2017). One solution that issuggested by Robertson was that “Not taking your work home with you is the bestsolution to filtering out negative stress” (A. Robertson, personalcommunication interview, December 30th, 2017). In order to releaseyourself from the negative feelings you have, the best thing to do is to nottake work home with you, separate them. In an article published by the Canadian Barassociation. Peter Jaffe, a psychologist at Western University suggests thattaking holidays, keeping fit and enjoy hobbies that go beyond the legalprofession will assist with reducing negative stress reactions. (Mucalov, 2017)These several statements reflect how important it is to take time away and notlet stress from work become a daily negative factor to your workday and homelife.
Practice Self-Care and Seek Therapy if needed: While working in acaring profession, we have seen that it is easy to get burnt-out an, run downand realize that compassion fatigue is taking over people’s lives. In theinterview, Robertson suggests that “Even though we assist in providing the bestcare and compassion we can, it always comes back to also caring for yourself atthe end of the day” (A. Robertson, personal communication interview, December30th, 2017).
It is easy to come home to your family and feel sorryfor yourself if you have just completed a funeral, or assisted a family througha crisis, or in terms of the legal profession, losing a case can even make youfeel like you screwed up. The real solution toreduce burn-out or compassion fatigue in essence is to practice self care.Robertson commented that “setting aside time away from work, enjoyingconversations and activities with your family, as well as having limitationswith what you talk about at home maintains a solid positive foundation at home,away from your work life” (A. Robertson, personal communication interview,December 30th, 2017).
Withthis in mind, an academy in Kingston has been formed, known as Tend Academy.They suggest self-awareness exercises such as journaling that can help releaseall the emotions and vicarious trauma that you may be experiencing while in theworkplace. They also suggest that if your symptoms worsen, such as leading todepression or suicide it is recommended to seek therapy for the times you arefeeling severely burnt-out (Mathieu, 2013). Conclusion: After the compilingof my findings from conducting Ms. Robertson’s interview, and the supportingmaterial found throughout the internet, it can be concluded that the threesolutions enclosed in this report are the best solutions that are the mostcommon among experts in the field of caring professions. Whether you are alegal professional, in medicine, or caring for the members of a congregation;you need to identify your negative reactions to stress, provide self-care andknow your limitations, in order to avoid the negative impending factors thatcan come from experiencing compassion fatigue. By doing all of these things youwill experience a more positive and self-empowering workplace, as well as abetter home and family life at the end of the day.
References: Babbel, S. (2012, July 04). Compassion Fatigue.Retrieved January 02, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201207/compassion-fatigue Hodgson, H.
(2016, September 04). What iscompassion fatigue? Retrieved January 02, 2018, from https://thecaregiverspace.org/what-is-compassion-fatigue/ Mathieu, F. (2007, March). TransformingCompassion Fatigue into Compassion Satisfaction: Top 12 Self-Care Tips forHelpers.
Lecture presented at 2017 Jail Health Care Conference, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Mathieu, F. (2013). What is Compassion Fatigue? RetrievedJanuary 03, 2018, from http://www.tendacademy.ca/what-is-compassion-fatigue/ Mucalov, J. (2017).
Compassion Fatigue in the LegalProfession? Retrieved January 02, 2018, from https://www.cba.org/Publications-Resources/CBA-Practice-Link/Work-Life-Balance/Health-Wellness/Compassion-Fatigue-in-the-Legal-Profession Robertson, A. (2017) Personal CommunicationInterview, December 30th, 2017.