3. Compassion Fatigue: Connection to Trauma, Stages and Assessments


In this section of the toolkit we will delve more deeply into the concept of compassion fatigue; how it connects to our understanding of trauma, the stages that one might experience if compassion fatigue is not addressed, and how to assess our levels of secondary trauma, burnout and compassion satisfaction. As we grow in our understanding of the extent and impact of trauma on the clients we serve, their families and our communities, our ability to maintain an open and compassionate approach can be challenged. Compassion fatigue can develop slowly overtime and go unrecognized. This section gives us insights that can guide us to take proactive measures to prevent its progression.


Staff & Leadership Combined Activities

Self-Assessment Tool
The ProQOL is a 30 question, self-administered, self-scored, free assessment. This is included in the document to distribute for this section. Facilitators should make time for participants to complete the assessment during their time together or ask them to complete ahead of time

It can be used on a regular basis as a self-check-in, offered in conjunction with supervisory or mentoring consultations, or as a basis for small group discussion. Please note that it is available on the ProQOL site in many languages.

Facilitators should be prepared to offer resources to staff whose ProQOL outcomes point to significant levels of burnout or secondary traumatic stress. Health care organizations typically have employee support protocols and resources, such as Employee Assistance Programs. Be sure you know those and remind staff that they exist and how to access them.

Stages of Compassion Fatigue – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas

Staff Circle Agenda

Additional Resources for Leadership

Conversations about Compassion

Research links organizational culture to staff experience of compassion fatigue1. One strong predictor of compassion fatigue is lack of clarity about the vision and mission of the organization. Leadership’s ability to align staff toward an overarching goal is an important key to staff job and compassion satisfaction.

Creating a trauma-informed culture of support for staff enhances their ability to provide such a culture for the people they serve. The STSI-OA is an assessment of the organization’s culture related to preventing and minimizing secondary trauma. The score is calculated online for your organization. Discuss results with your leadership team and consider one action to improve your organization’s support for staff related to secondary trauma.

1. Condrey, Katherine M. The Relationship between Compassion Fatigue and Organizational Culture. Diss. George Fox University, 2015.