The animal welfare and control profession is a rewarding industry. However, it does come with challenges as the job is demanding which takes a toll on the employees’ wellness. Compassion fatigue is an occupational hazard for the profession and this webinar delves into its intricacies, signs, symptoms, and strategies to overcome it.
Leading this session is Hilary Anne Hager from the Humane Society of the United States where she is the Vice President of Outreach, Engagement and Training. She has two decades of experience in the animal protection field having worked in animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation. She is now helping the animal protection community by providing education and resources on compassion fatigue.
Specifics Hilary discussed include:
- How animal welfare has improved in different aspects of the profession and how compassion fatigue threatens this progress.
- How compassion fatigue varies in severity, how it manifests and how it impacts employees’ personal and professional lives, and how it affects any mission-driven and trauma-exposed profession
- Differentiating burnout from compassion fatigue in terms of the symptoms that each is characterized by.
- The concept of trauma stewardship which recognizes individual differences in stress response and emphasizes the importance of balancing service to animals and self-care.
- The Compassion Fatigue Trajectory diagram which outlines phases that an animal welfare may experience from initial zeal to eventual withdrawal and complete disengagement.
- Common signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue primarily anger and cynicism, and feelings that one’s efforts are never enough.
- How trauma is pervasive in caring professions, the three types of trauma based on the individual’s exposure or proximity to the person or being that actually experienced the trauma.
- Organizational symptoms of compassion fatigue where employees may demonstrate resistance to change, aggression, lack of flexibility, inability to cooperate, high absenteeism, and negativity, among others.
- The value in seeking mental health support for everyone particularly if self-help isn’t improving your situation, there’s a sense of hopelessness, suicide ideation, or a history of trauma and mental health issues.
- The Science of Stress: The sympathetic nervous system which activates under threat, causing physical and emotional stress responses; and the parasympathetic system which promotes calmness and creativity.
- Easily implementable stress-reducing strategies that help shift from the reactive sympathetic state to the calmer parasympathetic state.
- Cultivating a non-anxious mental and physical state by recognizing stress as a normal and temporary part of work, practicing self-awareness, and utilizing calming strategies.
- The leader’s role in modeling self-care, providing resources, setting realistic expectations, maintaining a positive work culture, and being a non-anxious presence to reduce team anxiety and prioritize staff wellbeing.
- Steps to take to prioritize self-care that underlines the organization’s role in encouraging guilt-free usage of vacation time to allow employees to take the time off, relax, and recover.
- The value in focusing on things we control and a list of the things that we have control over.
Questions from the webinar attendees are about:
- The differences between the types of trauma.
- Dealing with compassion fatigue due to challenging work environments with constant changes and increased workload.
- Starting conversations about compassion fatigue among coworkers be it peers, subordinates, or leaders.
- Research on turnover rates and workers’ comp claims in animal welfare/control organizations.
- Dealing with a manager who appears indifferent about the shelter and animals.
Other Webinars with HSUS
- Jan 25: In It for the Long Haul: Combatting Compassion Fatigue and Enhancing Resiliency for Animal Welfare Professionals (this webinar)
- March 19: Maximizing Your Reuniting and Renesting Strategies for Wildlife
- June 4: Who’s Nibbling in Your Garden: Solving Conflicts with Woodchucks, Rabbits, and Other Garden “Nibblers”
- Aug 1: Handling and Solving Conflicts with Wild Snakes
- Oct 1: Solving Conflict with Bobcats
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: Compassion Fatigue Resources List
- Book Referenced: Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self while Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
- Book Referenced: To Save a Starfish Workbook
- “The most valuable thing I received from the webinar was information on compassion fatigue and what it is. I would have liked to have more information on how to combat it though. As well as how to pull yourself out of compassion fatigue.”
- “Overall I really enjoyed the Long Haul webinar, it had a lot of information that I found extremely helpful. Especially regarding the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and what causes people to lose their kindness and work engagement…. Our speaker was both courteous and well-versed.”
- “I am fairly well-versed in the topic–wanted to see if any new information or ideas to help others or myself should I start to note signs. Always interested in resources to share.”
- “Very informative, and the host was upbeat and knowledgeable!”
- “I got a lot of good advice for in talking with my boss about all that is going on outside her door.”
Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates around the globe fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, the HSUS takes on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries, and together with its affiliates, rescues and provides direct care for over 100,000 animals every year. The HSUS works on reforming corporate policy, improving and enforcing laws and elevating public awareness on animal issues.
This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.