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A cross-sectional pilot study of compassion fatigue, burnout, and compassion satisfaction in pediatric palliative care providers in the United States

Kase, S. M.; Waldman, E. D.; Weintraub, A. S.

Palliat Support Care. 2018 Feb 6; 17(3):269-275


OBJECTIVE: Compassion fatigue (CF) is secondary traumatic distress experienced by providers from contact with patients' suffering. Burnout (BO) is job-related distress resulting from uncontrollable workplace factors that manifest in career dissatisfaction. Compassion satisfaction (CS) is emotional fulfillment derived from caring for others. The literature on BO in healthcare providers is extensive, whereas CF and CS have not been comprehensively studied. Because of ongoing exposure to patient and family distress, pediatric palliative care (PPC) providers may be at particular risk for CF. We conducted a cross-sectional pilot study of CF, BO, and CS among PPC providers across the United States. METHOD: The Compassion Fatigue and Satisfaction Self-Test for Helpers and a questionnaire of professional and personal characteristics were distributed electronically and anonymously to PPC physicians and nurses. Logistic and linear regression models for CF, BO, and CS as a function of potential risk factors were constructed. RESULTS: The survey response rate was 39%, primarily consisting of female, Caucasian providers. The prevalence of CF, BO, and CS was 18%, 12%, and 25%, respectively. Distress about a "clinical situation," physical exhaustion, and personal loss were identified as significant determinants of CF. Distress about "coworkers," emotional depletion, social isolation, and "recent involvement in a clinical situation in which life-prolonging activities were not introduced" were significant determinants of BO. Physical exhaustion, personal history of trauma, "recent involvement in a clinical situation in which life-prolonging activities were not introduced," and not discussing distressing issues were significant predictors of lower CS scores.Significance of resultsCF and BO directly influence the well-being and professional performance of PPC providers. To provide effective compassionate care to patients, PPC providers must be attentive to predictors of these phenomena. Further work is needed to explore additional causes of CF, BO, and CS in PPC providers as well as potential interventions.

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