Compassion fatigue is a common and expected result of stress. As veterinarians, we are under tremendous amounts of stress
everyday. We are trying to be business people, caregivers, counselors, and family members constantly. By nature we are caring,
given people, often putting other people and/or their pets before ourselves or our own families. We deal with serious diseases
and death on a daily basis. We have to continually show compassion in a real way to our clients and patients. We euthanize
However, compassion fatigue is more than just everyday stress and can be more than burnout. It is a state of complete mental
and physical exhaustion that can seem overwhelming. The emotional aspect of compassion fatigue can be complicated by physical
issues such as depression or hormonal imbalances.
This state of compassion fatigue can be overcome. Being aware that it is present is an extremely important first step. We
can't rely on others to get us out of our "funk," we have to take responsibility for our own healing and well-being.
Preventing compassion fatigue
Veterinarians by nature are compassionate people. We give of ourselves, and people have expectations of us that they may not
have of other medical professionals. Consequently, we are not always recognized for what we do give. Much like hospice workers,
we are expected to go on to the next patient or client and be as supportive and caring as we were the last several hundred
Keeping a balanced life and balanced perspective can help prevent the overwhelming experience of complete compassion fatigue.
Maintaining this balance can be a daily challenge.
Simple ways to fight compassion fatigue
JUST SAY NO
Learn something new everyday
Identify with the client/patient
Take personal time
Embrace something different
Have realistic expectations
Take care of yourself first
Treating compassion fatigue
Symptoms of compassion fatigue include excessive complaining, isolation, compulsive behaviors (spending, eating, other addictions),
poor sleep habits, poor hygiene, apathy, difficulty concentrating, chronic physical ailments (recurrent infections, aches
and pains). Once the signs have been noticed, one should take serious steps to change things. Sometimes you'll need professional
help, as sometimes things have progressed to the point where a temporary course of counseling or antidepressant medication
may be in order. It is good to remember that seeking help is nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone needs help sometimes.
You can take steps to change the way you feel and the outlook you have on your life. It starts from within, and taking care
of yourself is the best and only first step. Each individual will have different needs and different responses to things.
Possible self-care activities that can help break the cycle of compassion fatigue include:
Healthy eating habits
• Saying NO!
Surround yourself with people with healthy outlooks
• Be positive – attitude is a choice!
Drink more water
Take time for you
• Have realistic expectations for yourself, organize your life so you can succeed.
• Get over yourself