Drs. Gregory K. Ogilvie and Antony S. Moore

Prevention , Therapy & Mitigation of Compassion Fatigue

So how do people provide compassionate care, meet the medical and nonmedical needs of patients and caregivers, and stay true to what brought them to a caring profession without experiencing fatiguing and potentially devastating consequences? First, we must acknowledge that as a profession—by the very nature of what we do and who we are—we are at risk for compassion fatigue. Simply by acknowledging the condition and accepting that we are vulnerable, we can see the potential hazards, recognize likely inciting situations, and hopefully prevent devastating outcomes

We also must work with all staff members to experience and then celebrate the sense of achievement in the work in which we are involved. On a daily basis, veterinary health care teams intervene in the lives of clients and their pets to provide high-quality medical, surgical, and preventive care while offering emotional support and validating the bond that brought those pets and people to our offices. This is compassionate care; to accomplish it well requires a great deal of emotional energy from every team member. In this manner, we provide for the needs of our patients and caregivers. The act of caring is the epitome of success in our profession, regardless of the emotional nature of the situation or the medical outcome. Although compassion fatigue cannot be completely avoided, there are many strategies to help team members mitigate its impact:

• Educate the entire veterinary health care team about compassionate fatigue and its consequences

• Establish weekly debriefing sessions in which the entire staff can discuss needs, concerns, and cases that weigh on them

• Establish resources about compassion fatigue, including a library, for team members

• Use relaxation techniques both within the hospital and outside the workplace

• Take breaks during the day

• Define and preserve a sanctuary or comfort room where team members can be alone to meditate or relax

• Inform all team members about every case and allow them to have adequate closure at the end of any patient’s life

• Whenever possible, work out sabbatical or continuing education opportunities for personal reward and growth

• Teach team members how to set limits and boundaries on interactions with clients and patients, especially when they are susceptible to compassion fatigue

• Employ humor when appropriate

• Find a friend or colleague who understands and appreciates the experience of providing empathy and compassion, and share with that person

• Eat right and exercise

• Get in touch with nature and the outdoors

• Interact with children and animals

By understanding of compassion fatigue and providing ways to mitigate its effects, a veterinary clinic can succeed and continue to provide optimum compassionate care.

Dr.  Gregory K. Ogilvie works to be a worthy disciple of Jesus Christ while being a husband, father, friend, veterinarian and teacher. Greg is director of the Angel Care Cancer Center at California Veterinary Specialists and is Division Director of Veterinary Oncology at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center.   Dr. Ogilvie lectures to thousands of veterinary students, physicians, graduate veterinarians and scientists each year from around the world. He has also been a guest speaker for CVM events.

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