Helping those who care the most
Compassion fatigue describes “the overall experience of emotional and physical fatigue that people who care for others experience due to chronic use of empathy when engaging with service users who are suffering in some way” (Newell & MacNeil, 2010). There is evidence that compassion fatigue, also know as ‘vicarious trauma’ increases when a caring professional sees that a client is not improving (Corcoran, 1987). Yet, a large part of compassion fatigue is built directly into the fabric of the kind of work caring professionals and home carers carry out. It is acknowledged that caring professionals often work in challenging environments, where traumatised and vulnerable service users can present with challenging behaviours (Keogh & Byrne, 2016). Research indicates that as a result of these challenges, the incidences of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, PTSD and burnout is significantly high within the caring profession.
Research also highlights the significant detrimental effects, on the individual, the organisation and service users themselves, of compassion fatigue, where not recognised and addressed appropriately. Compassion fatigue is a style of burnout and usually people who experience compassion fatigue are already burned out and lack self-care skills. Compassion fatigue training aims to enhance understanding and awareness of the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue, look at how to prevent the initial burn out and identify steps to prevent and/or minimise risk of experiencing compassion fatigue as well as providing participants with a self-care toolkit to aid resiliency in professional practice.
Jennifer Reidy has a wide range of work and educational experience in the caring professional world. Jennifer holds a BA in Applied Social Studies in Social Care from Limerick Institute of Technology. The final year of this honours degree was spent researching the topic of ‘Compassion Fatigue/Vicarious Trauma and Burnout’ where she wrote a thesis on this topic. At the time, this topic was never before researched at this level in Ireland and it then became a sought after piece of research which attained a 1.1 grade.
Jennifer continued working in the field following her graduation but over those years she began to notice a lot more levels of burnout and compassion fatigue than she ever did before, now that she had the awareness. Organisations and colleges began contacting her looking for more information and seeking her to attend public speaking sessions on this topic.
Jennifer has many training awards built up such as, suicide and selfharm prevention and intervention, TCI behavioural management, Motivational interviewing training, First aid, Children’s first training. Jennifer also has expertise in the fitness industry, training as a boxing for fitness instructor and qualifying with a distinction in QQI level 6, Training, Delivery & Evaluation with the Irish Institute of Training & Development.
Jennifer has worked in many areas of social care such as child residential settings, working with aquired brain injury sufferers, working in areas of homelessness, hostel work, youth work, working in children and family services and also in family resource centres.
Jennifer has now developed a training package on how to notice, cure and prevent Compassion Fatigue and Burnout and has been delivering this training to staff in the caring profession through organisations such as Social Care Ireland, Extern Ireland, HSE, ICSH and Family Carers Ireland to name but a few. Jennifer also delivers this training to 2nd and 3rd level students and more recently has been looking at business plans in relation to rolling it out to 2nd and 3rd level students on a more frequent arrangement.
Jennifer believes this training should be mandatory to individuals in all walks of life in order for people to mind their overall mental and physical health but in particular people who are in caring roles, whether that is in their professional lives or private lives. Jennifer believes we need to “fill up everyday in order to empty out regularly”. Compassion Fatigue sufferers have a tendency to empty out regularly without stopping to fill back up, step back and mind themselves in the process of caring.