Compassion Fatigue Among Palliative Care Clinicians: Findings on Personality Factors and Years of Service

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Abstract

Objectives:

Palliative medicine is a rewarding field, but providers encounter patient trauma on a routine basis. Compassion fatigue, marked by burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and low satisfaction may result. However, professionals differ markedly in how they respond to patient trauma. The objective of the current study was to determine whether personality traits of neuroticism and agreeableness relate to aspects of compassion fatigue, after accounting for time spent working in the field.

Methods:

Sixty-six palliative medicine physicians, nurses, social workers, and chaplains completed validated measures of personality traits, compassion fatigue, and work background.

Results:

Providers who had worked longer reported higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of burnout. Neuroticism demonstrated strong significant associations with secondary traumatic stress and burnout (Ps < .001). Agreeableness was significantly and strongly associated with compassion satisfaction (P < .001). These associations held after accounting for years spent working in the field.

Significance of Results:

Personality traits of neuroticism and agreeableness may convey risk and resilience, respectively, for palliative care professionals. More research is needed to determine if assessing personality traits can help identify providers at risk for adverse reactions to patient trauma.

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