After the Webinar: Blueprint for Resilience. Q&A with Wendy Hummell

Webinar presenter Wendy Hummell answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Blueprint for Resilience: How to Reverse Engineer Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Can you explain the difference between stress and traumatic stress? 

Wendy Hummell: Yeah. So, there’s kind of a continuum of stress as well, and I didn’t really talk about that too much in this presentation. But if you think about stress as a continuum, just like some other things that I talked about, there’s eustress, there’s distress. So, eustress is like a good kind of stress. I know that that might sound a little counter-intuitive, but good stress could be things like, building a house or getting married or having a baby, or something like that. So, there’s stress, we feel something in our body, it’s something that we’re experiencing, but it’s good. Distress is not so good. And then we kind of work our way up through the spectrum of different levels of stress. Like so there’s toxic stress. There’s traumatic stress, which we talked about what trauma looks like, and secondary trauma, that’s when we’re living in a state of hyper-vigilance too frequently. And then, of course, there’s also something called an allostatic load, which is complete shutdown, you can’t function. So, there’s kind of a spectrum of stress and, unfortunately, most people who do certain professions, we kind of hover in that area of that more toxic and traumatic stress, if that answers the question.


Audience Question: Going back to your analogy, with the carrot and the bean? Should we all strive to be the bean in almost all situations? Or should we truly be situationally dependent? 

Wendy Hummell: That’s a really good question and it’s not one of those things you can say yes or no. I just think overall, kind of having that perspective of being able to transform the environment and that kind of concept of post-traumatic growth. So that’s kind of really what I take away from that story. So yeah, I mean, sometimes, ideally, that’s what we might want to strive for. But in reality, sometimes that’s not what occurs. And not looking at it in a way to beat yourself up because you feel like maybe that is you, but it’s more of an awareness, and maybe how to kind of transform the way that you respond in the future.


Audience Question: I am mid-career and am honestly finding the work only occasionally fulfilling but mostly fairly mundane. Should I be looking for that exit toward retirement or something else? 

Wendy Hummell: That could be a very, very long answer because I’d have a lot of questions for this person, but I can tell you that I’ve brought her name up a few times already, but Brenda Dietzman has some really good classes on the Justice Clearinghouse, webinars on this topic. And just like always setting yourself up for the next thing, like, thinking about why you’re doing what you’re doing, I would invite you to do that and reflect on that a little bit. What is it exactly that you’re feeling unfulfilled with? And really just getting granular and journaling, I’m a big fan of journaling to get to the bottom of why certain things are coming up. So, I don’t know what the right answer would be for this person about considering another career. That could be the answer, but there would be kind of a lot that I would want to kind of dig into before giving that kind of advice. But, again, just really kind of looking at what your position is, why you’re doing, what you’re doing, maybe why you’re unfulfilled, does it have to do with circumstances that maybe you can impact or not?


Audience Question: How can we be mindful of engaging in beneficial disclosure and venting versus giving negative thoughts more power? How do you balance those? 

Wendy Hummell: Yeah, that’s a really good question! But I can tell you is, one of the things I do, in my current role, is manage the peer support team. And one of the things that we are notorious for in this line of work, is self-isolation, keeping things to ourselves, not discussing things. As human beings, we are geared towards connection, it’s what we’re hard-wired to do. And if we repress that, it can be very detrimental. So, just kind of inviting people to think about when you do that, and how it can be beneficial to share things that you’re going through. Not for the purpose of gossip or mean-spirited. It’s just it’s more about if there’s something going on with you, sharing that with another person.


Audience Question: Compassion fatigue is a big deal in veterinary medicine. Are there things that I can do to help implement in my hospital for my staff? 

Wendy Hummell: So, there are lots of different tools that I can recommend as far as just giving people the opportunity to practice mindfulness, like teaching them some of the skills that I’ve mentioned. Mindfulness, meditation, journaling. Being able to recognize when you need to step away and maybe when you need a reset. Because that’s something that I think we do, is we kind of override what’s happening and we oftentimes ignore and kind of stepping down and we just keep going, because it’s part of what we’re “supposed to do”. So, just providing people the tools and the opportunity to do that, whether that be like bringing someone in for in-person training, whether that be an online platform, teaching people, or giving them the access to these kinds of tools.


Audience Question: What was the name of the website you suggested to look at for the compassion fatigue tool? 

Wendy Hummell: It’s called the self-assessment tool that I am referring to is called the Pro Qual. So, it’s called The Professional Quality of Life Scale. So, if you just put that into like in a Google search, I’m sure you could come up with it. One thing I want to mention too. I’m not sure because we have a lot of people from different areas of the system. If anybody’s ever heard of —– wellness app, I know that there are other apps out there. But one, that’s what we use at our agency currently. And there are a lot of self-assessment tools that are already pre-built and are pre-loaded onto that onto that app and it’s really beneficial because agency members can go on there and just take it right on their phone through the app.


Audience Question: Are those results private? Or is it possible for administrators or anything like that, to access those results? Or is it confidential? 

Wendy Hummell: Absolutely not. They cannot. It’s all confidential. So, I can go into all that, but bottom line is, it’s on an external server. So, it isn’t affiliated or associated with the agency at all. It’s through, like the Apple developer. It’s just having any other access to any other app. So, it’s not affiliated with the agency. There’s no way to track who it is and all that, so it’s just for you.


Audience Question: How do personal boundaries relate to healthy compassion and compassion fatigue? 

Wendy Hummell: Oh, that’s a really good question, and that can probably require a really long answer, but yes, knowing how to establish boundaries is very, very important. One thing I don’t think I mentioned this, but people who are highly empathetic can be a lot more susceptible to compassion fatigue. And so just recognizing, what it is for you, and when you need to step back. When to say no. So, establishing those boundaries for yourself because that’s going to look differently for everybody, but absolutely boundaries is a huge piece. And sometimes with our jobs, depending on what it is, or what the circumstances are, we may not have a lot of control over some of those things.


Audience Question: Do you have any advice for how to break out of the cycle of needing to move but being too fatigued to even get started? 

Wendy Hummell: Oh yeah, and so it’s interesting because I’ve had a lot of people say that to me. I run a coaching program, it’s a holistic health coaching program, and one of the things that have been very, very common is for people to have very, very low energy, or lethargy almost. And so really getting what I would say to this person is that I would want to know some things before answering that and kind of give them like a little pre- questionnaire about maybe where their chronic inflammation score might be. And I would want to know things like, how much sleep are they getting? What kind of what is there a day like? How many hours a week are they working? What are your relationships like? Are you on any kind of prescription medication? There are so many factors that go into that. So, that would be the first thing that I would want to know. And then, just very quick, to add onto that. It can be very overwhelming for somebody who’s in that state. And so not thinking about what you’re not doing, but adding in, like, maybe something very small that you can do. And just starting out with, just like, the small, incremental changes. Maybe just even getting up and sitting up and doing some breathing practices. Like, that would probably be something that I would want to start with someone that is feeling like that, is using your breath.


Audience Question: Next one is in your compassion fatigue slide. You had a term of last responders. I haven’t heard of this term. Who are you representing with this term? 

Wendy Hummell: Oh, yeah, really good question. Those are the people that work in the medical investigators’ office. So, it could be crime scene investigators, and people working behind the scenes.


Audience Question: I have realized that I am burned out. I have these thoughts of starting over in a new place. Am I just stressed, or should I seriously consider starting over? 

Wendy Hummell: Yeah, I feel like I would say the same thing to that person that I said to the person before. It just, I, instead of rushing to make it like kind of a quick decision, I would do a little self-reflection. Journaling, first of all. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What led you to do that thing? Why is it? What is it that you’re experiencing right now? And really just sometimes breaking it down. Because sometimes, we feel a certain way. And once we kind of start asking ourselves certain questions, we’re able to kind of get to the bottom of what’s actually going on. Because oftentimes, we think it’s one thing, but then when we shine the light on some of this stuff, we often figure out, but maybe there’s more going on and that it’s really something else. So, it really just, again, it’s hard to answer these questions in general when it really just depends on what’s going on without that one person.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Blueprint for Resilience: How to Reverse Engineer Burnout and Compassion Fatigue


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