Interventions for Occupational Stress and Compassion Fatigue in Animal Care Professionals—A Systematic Review

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Abstract

The work associated with caring for suffering and traumatized animals leaves many animal care professionals vulnerable to occupational stress and compassion fatigue. Given the number of negative outcomes these conditions have for the workplace and the individual, the availability of effective therapeutic interventions is extremely important. It was, therefore, the aim of this article to conduct a systematic literature review on intervention programs for occupational stress and compassion fatigue in animal care professionals for the purpose of providing best practice guidelines. The review found that although occupational stress is highly prevalent in the animal care profession, only 4 articles evaluating therapeutic interventions in this population were identified. This small number, combined with the variability in design and outcome measures of the articles, made best practice recommendations on the basis of this review difficult. The author recommends that administrators and/or managers within the animal care profession and mental health professionals wishing to implement therapeutic interventions borrow from research conducted in other areas until a strong research base in the animal care profession is established. A review of occupational stress interventions in the human care profession revealed that cognitive–behavioral techniques, including mindfulness-based approaches, are the most frequently cited approaches for therapeutic interventions in this population. Programs incorporating psychoeducation, coping skills training, and relaxation within a cognitive–behavioral framework with possible mindfulness-based approaches may, therefore, offer mental health professionals, administrators, and/or managers in the animal care profession a useful starting point with which to base future interventions.

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