Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)

Department

Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Mandy Meyer

Abstract

Purpose

Occupational therapy is a unique profession working with individuals across the lifespan to overcome adversity and increase overall quality of life. Of the many settings where occupational therapists can work, 93% work in direct-patient care (AOTA, "Work Setting Trends for Occupational Therapy: How to Choose a Setting"). These settings are high demand in nature and require large quantities of time, energy, empathy, and compassion. Continuous use of empathy and compassion daily creates a risk for developing compassion fatigue among healthcare providers. Unfortunately, there currently appears to be a disjunction in occupational therapy literature related to compassion fatigue in occupational therapy practice. The purpose of this scholarly project is to raise awareness of compassion fatigue in the field of occupational therapy and provide education of the components of compassion fatigue and strategies to mitigate its effects on the quality of patient care, working life, and personal life (Edwards & Dirette, 2010).

Methods

An extensive literature review was conducted in order to understand the prevalence of compassion fatigue within occupational therapy. The information obtained from the literature review was analyzed and placed into emerging themes: (a) compassion fatigue versus burnout, (b) risk factors, (c) strategies, (d) tools for measuring compassion fatigue, and (e) models and theories for compassion fatigue and occupational therapy practitioners. Person-Environment-Occupation-Performance model was used to organize information and guide the creation of the product.

Results

Analysis of information indicated several risk factors and strategies to help identify and mitigate compassion fatigue. The main risk factors that impacted the development of compassion fatigue were aspects of the work environment, occupational therapists’ ability to utilize personal and professional skills, experiences, and abilities for fostering resilience to help mitigate these issues. To help combat risk factors, the authors identified evidence-based strategies, including self-care, support systems, mindfulness practices, professional identity affirmation, and education. The authors created an OT Practice article to educate occupational therapy practitioners on what compassion fatigue is and provide strategies to combat its effects.

Conclusion

The purpose of this product is to raise awareness of the term ‘compassion fatigue’ and its impact on personal and professional life. There is currently a disconnect in occupational therapy literature related to compassion fatigue in occupational therapy practice, leading to the creation of the OT Practice article. The authors hope that by utilizing a proactive and holistic approach, practitioners can begin to identify and detect early warning signs and use evidence-based strategies to combat early signs of compassion fatigue and enhance occupational performance, participation, satisfaction, and fulfillment within their personal and professional lives.

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