As a VITAS Healthcare professional, you experience both compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue from caring for others. My VITAS study, conducted from 2016-17, demonstrated that there is a spirit of compassionate care and organic “together” self-care being practiced at VITAS. The wider hospice literature is also showing that a mindful focus on compassion towards patients, families and staff increases your well-being and mindful self-care strategies are the central protective factors against compassion fatigue: burnout and secondary traumatic stress (Hotchkiss, 2018; Hotchkiss and Lesher, 2018).
Living the Compassionate Life brings true happiness that can't be bought. A key finding of the study was that hospice staff who felt good about helping their clients tended to take care of themselves better and have lower risk for burnout and secondary traumatic stress. VITAS staff who engaged in multiple and frequent self-care strategies experienced higher professional quality of life. Hospice organizations have begun to recognize that the pursuit of wellness among their staff is a win for both patients and staff. Staff wellness should be encouraged intentionally and holistically (Hotchkiss, 2018). Another study among spiritual care professionals demonstrated that organizational factors, such as a culture of empowerment and equality, are linked to increased individual wellness among healthcare professionals (Hotchkiss and Lesher, 2018).
Productivity increases and attrition decreases since healthy staff are productive staff who enjoy their work. In the healthcare professional’s journey toward wellness, mindful self-care is imperative. One of the outcomes of the study was to implement an evidenced-based intervention to raise compassionate satisfaction and lower burnout risk. Inspired by Darci Carr and Ruth Lesher creating the Wisdom Within Retreat (2017) for VITAS staff, I took our GMs newsletter template and launched The Compassionate Life: Wisdom and Inspiration for the Courageous Journey of the VITAS Professional. The quarterly resources draw on the deep wisdom and inspiration within the VITAS program and encourage staff to join in a united, reflective practice on how they take care of themselves, what inspires and equips them for sustainable compassionate care and compassionate living. The sample program resource is entitled:
If you did not yet assess your self-care and wellness, this evidence-based assessment measures your compassion satisfaction, self-care, compassion fatigue, burnout risk and provides custom feedback from which you can take direct action to improve your self-care and wellness. Click the below button to begin.
Hotchkiss, J. T., & Lesher, R. (2018). Factors Predicting Burnout Among Chaplains: Compassion Satisfaction, Organizational Factors, and the Mediators of Mindful Self-Care and Secondary Traumatic Stress. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 72(2), 86-98. doi:10.1177/1542305018780655
Hotchkiss, J. T. (2018). Mindful Self-Care and Secondary Traumatic Stress Mediate a Relationship Between Compassion Satisfaction and Burnout Risk Among Hospice Care Professionals. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. doi:10.1177/1049909118756657
Hotchkiss, J. T. (2017-2018). The Compassionate Life: Wisdom and Inspiration for the Courageous Journey of VITAS Professionals.