Studies confirm that caregivers play host to a high level of compassion fatigue. Day in, day out, workers struggle to function in care giving environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society's flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.
Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do. Leading traumatologistEric Gentry suggests that people who are attracted to care giving often enter the field already compassion fatigued. A strong identification with helpless, suffering, or traumatized people or animals is possibly the motive. It is common for such people to hail from a tradition of what Gentry labels: other-directed care giving. Simply put, these are people who were taught at an early age to care for the needs of others before caring for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care practices are absent from their lives. (for more information on Compassion Fatigue)
Easily recognizable in others and perhaps ourselves, Compassion Fatigue surfaces repeatedly in conservation. By experiencing compassion, that is, deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it, conservation team members may find themselves unable to contribute and communicate as efficiently and with as much satisfaction as they would like. By combining compassion and communication as an intentional practice tool in conservation medicine, and drawing heavy on social and emotional intelligence, our medical kit becomes like Mary Poppin's magical bag, a seemingly endless reservoir of methods to attend to the multiple beings in our circles of care, including ourselves.