According to the developers of the Professional Quality of Life, or ProQOL, scale, compassion fatigue is characterized by a decline in compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress.
1. Compassion satisfaction
Compassion satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to help and support someone in times of their trouble. You feel positive about your ability to help another person.
If your subtotal score for the Compassion Satisfaction Scale is 22 or less, your compassion satisfaction level is low.
If your subtotal score for the Compassion Satisfaction Scale is between 23 and 41, your compassion satisfaction level is average.
If your subtotal score for the Compassion Satisfaction Scale is 42 or more, your compassion satisfaction level is high.
Burnout is an important outcome of compassion fatigue and is associated with feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, and difficulty in caring effectively for others. These negative feelings usually have a gradual onset. They can reflect the feeling that your efforts make no difference, or they can be associated with an overwhelming level of responsibility and a perceived lack of support.
If your subtotal score for the Burnout Scale is 22 or less, your burnout level is low.
If your subtotal score for the Burnout Scale is between 23 and 41, your burnout level is average.
If your subtotal score for the Burnout Scale is 42 or more, your burnout level is high.
3. Secondary traumatic stress
A person experiences secondary traumatic stress (STS) when they are indirectly exposed to extremely or traumatically stressful events that someone else has gone through. For example, you may repeatedly hear stories about traumatic things that happened to someone else, such as a per-son who has sustained emotional or physical injuries, you may develop STS. The symptoms of STS are usually rapid in onset and associated with a particular event. They may include being afraid, having difficulty sleeping, having images of the upsetting event pop into your mind, or avoiding things that remind you of the event. This is a condition known to occur among people caring for trauma victims and PTSD sufferers, such as military spouses.
If your subtotal score for the Secondary Trauma Scale is 22 or less, your secondary traumatic stress level is low.
If your subtotal score for the Secondary Trauma Scale is between 23 and 41, your secondary traumatic stress level is average.
If your subtotal score for the Secondary Trauma Scale is 42 or more, your secondary traumatic stress level is high.
The results of the ProQOL highlight whether you have serious compassion fatigue issues and in which area. It high levels of compassion fatigue are indicated, you are strongly encouraged to seek professional assistance. Even if your scores are low or average at the moment, you should continue to monitor it and implement actions to take care of yourself!
When you [help] people you have direct contact with their lives. As you may have found, your compassion for those you [help] can affect you in positive and negative ways. Below are some questions about your experiences, both positive and negative, as a [helper]. Consider each of the following questions about you and your current work situation. Select the number that honestly reflects how frequently you experienced these things in the last 30 days. Mark your responses for each question in the blocks provided.
** Again, note that some items are reverse-scored (1, 4, 15, 17, & 29). In these cases a “5” (“very often”) becomes a score of “1”, a “4” (often”) is scored a “2”, a “3” (“sometimes”) remains a “3”, a “2” (“rarely”) is scored a “4”, and a “1” (“never”) is scored a “5”. This only applies to the five questions specified.
Calculate all the subtotals and compare it to the scoring interpretations above to identify how your support and caregiving activities impact your quality of life.
Download and print the Professional Quality of Life questionnaire here: Quality of Life Questionnaire
Low levels of compassion satisfaction and high levels of burnout should alert you to implement measure to recover and take care of yourself as well.