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A Cross-sectional Analysis of Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction in Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physicians in the United States

Gribben, J. L.; MacLean, S. A.; Pour, T.; Waldman, E. D.; Weintraub, A. S.

Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Jun 18; 26(7):732-743


OBJECTIVES: The objective was to determine the prevalence of compassion fatigue (CF), burnout (BO), and compassion satisfaction (CS) and identify potential personal and professional predictors of these phenomena in pediatric emergency medicine (PEM) physicians. METHODS: A modified Compassion Fatigue and Satisfaction Self-Test for Helpers and a questionnaire of personal and professional characteristics were distributed electronically to PEM physicians nationally. The prevalence of these phenomena was calculated. Hierarchical linear regression models for CF, BO, and CS as a function of potential risk factors were constructed. RESULTS: The final analyzable survey rate represented 22.7% of the physicians invited to participate. The prevalences of CF, BO, and CS were 16.4, 21.5, and 18.5%, respectively. BO score, distress about a "clinical situation," "physical work environment," and engaging in prayer/meditation were each significant determinants of higher CF scores, whereas "socializing with family/friends" was significantly associated with lower CF scores. CF score, emotional depletion, and distress due to "coworkers" were each significant determinants of higher BO scores, whereas CS score and "talking with a family member" as a means of self-care were significantly associated with lower BO scores. Socializing with family/friends and >20 years as PEM provider were each significant determinants of higher CS scores, whereas BO score, emotional depletion, distress about the physical work environment and "administrative issues," 10% to 24% of time spent caring for pediatric patients, and "talking with life partner" about work-related distress were each significant determinants of lower CS scores. We acknowledge that the generalizability of our findings is limited by the sample size and by the fact that participants were largely female, Caucasian, and junior faculty and worked in academic medical centers. CONCLUSIONS: PEM physicians are at risk for developing CF, BO, and low CS. Proactive awareness of these phenomena and their predictors may allow providers to better manage the unique challenges and emotional stressors of the pediatric ED to enhance personal well-being and professional performance.

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