4. System Drivers of Compassion Fatigue


As we have discovered in the previous sections of this toolkit, the goal of compassion resilience can be reached with the application of personal skills and perspectives combined with organizational policies and practices. In this section we will focus on the systemic factors that can negatively impact our compassion resilience and explore our response and potential role in making positive change.

We all work in imperfect systems. When we look outside of our own system to those that we rely on to provide for the health and well-being of the people we serve, we find more imperfection. The first step in lessening the negative impact of the systems in which we live and work is naming what it is about the systems that contributes to our compassion fatigue. The second step is to discover which items on that list we can change, which ones leadership can and will address, and which ones we would best be served by letting go.


Distribute this document to all participants to explore prior to the following application activities

This document is for Toolkit Facilitators and Leadership Team Only
The following is a review of system factors that lead to compassion fatigue and those that are protective. Keep these factors in mind as you facilitate the combined staff and leadership activity below, What Can I Control?, and if you are on the leadership team, use this information to prepare and respond to the activity.



Additional Resources

The National Academy of Medicine’s all-encompassing conceptual model of factors affecting clinician well-being and resilience is a good resource for those wanting a deeper dive into the external and internal factors that can contribute to both compassion fatigue and resilience: A Journey to Construct an All-Encompassing Conceptual Model of Factors Affecting Clinician Well-Being and Resilience

Family and friends are important support systems as well. This article speaks to using that support to help protect against burnout in the health care field: Ask Your Family for Help with Burnout