Prevention of Burnout for Trauma Workers



Compassion fatigue – or the physical and mental burnout of attending to other’s needs – is very common in disaster relief and trauma workers, including firefighters, police, counsellors, social workers and NGOs (Figley, 1995).  It is believed that prolonged compassion fatigue can evolve into internalized responses (where the personal wellbeing of the individual can be disregarded), thus traumatizing the individual by result of hyper-activated empathetic responses (Palm et al., 2004). As a consequence, these types of professions often have a high turnover rate (Ray et al., 2013).  As with any trauma, there is the inability to predict what type of environment might be most traumatic and when such negative reactions could flare up (Foa et al., 1992)This has implications on wellbeing and resilience. It is believed that implementing workplace wellness programmes with professions supporting other’s needs will help address vicarious traumatic responses and enable participants to develop consistent coping strategies, minimizing the effects of stress and preventing job burnout.


 An 8-week independent measures study was employed. Participants were randomly allocated to one of two conditions. There were 8 participants per group. In the experimental group participants attended a structured weekly peer support program. The control group did not have access to a structured wellness programme. Two wellbeing measures were recorded both pre and post intervention, this included the use of the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation Measure (CORE), the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS). 


It is hypothesized that participants in the experimental condition receiving peer support will benefit from increased positive wellbeing in comparison to the control group which will support developing positive coping strategies and minimizing the effects of the stress.


  1. Figley, C. R. (Ed.). (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. Philadelphia, PA, US: Brunner/Mazel. Brunner/Mazel psychological stress series, No. 23.
  2. Palm, R., Follete. V., Polusney, M.A, (2004). Vicarious Traumatization: Potential Hazards and Interventions for Disaster and Trauma Workers. Prehospital and disaster medicine. PubMed 19. 73-8. 
  3. Ray. S. L., Wong, C., White. D., Heaslip. K. (2013). Compassion Satisfaction, Compassion Fatigue, Work Life Conditions, and Burnout Among Frontline Mental Health Care Professionals. Traumatology DOI: 10.1177/1534765612471144

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