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04th September 2020

Compassion Fatigue in Care Staff

Compassion fatigue is a term that has been around a long time, but has been frequently referred to and cited during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s defined as emotional, physical, and spiritual distress in those who provide care to another and is associated with ‘caring roles’ where staff experience significant emotional or physical pain and suffering (

As providers of care services, the wellbeing of staff is paramount and therefore there is a duty to be aware of symptoms of both individual staff fatigue and organisational fatigue.

Managers choose staff that have empathy, commitment, dedication and those that model caring organisational values. However, it is these individuals, who are most compassionate and empathetic that are placed at the greatest risk of ‘taking on the pain, as if it were their own’.

So as employers, what can be done?

Firstly, it’s not ok for staff to assume that ‘this is part of the job’ or to ‘man up’. Organisations need to drive a culture where it recognises that ‘it is ok to not be ok’.

At the recruitment stage, it’s important to prepare new staff for the emotional dangers of their role and to ascertain their ability to manage this.

At staff induction, we have a duty to provide training that includes offering of strategies to help all staff cope with emotional strain (which is revisited annually).

For established staff, a proactive approach should be taken by organisations to offering techniques for self-care and self-compassion, so that there is enough reserve of emotional energy to deal with difficult and challenging times.

Everyone should be aware of the symptoms of compassion fatigue and know who to go to for support, and what self-help strategies they can work through to help.

Research suggests that by incorporating training in self-care practices with staff and techniques for managing difficult and challenging times results in reduced sickness, increased retention, and improved morale within the organisation.

Other suggestions (that have proved to be successful) for managers to consider implementing  include:

  • Support groups and open discussions
  • Regular breaks
  • Routine check-ins
  • Mental health days
  • Relaxation rooms, massage, meditation classes, etc.

A poster can be located within our QCS Resource Centre to offer support to staff. There is also a webinar available, delivered by the Care Workers Charity which offers many strategies to consider implementing in the workplace.



*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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