The relational nature of teaching and emotional labour to care for children and youth present unique psychological hazards for educational workers. Compassion stress/compassion fatigue and burnout are occupational hazards that can interfere with an educator’s ability to maintain a safe, warm, and caring school culture for children and youth.
By knowing the risk factors and symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout, investigating the wide range of individual, system, school, and professional interventions available to educators, and implementing these interventions after providing crisis and trauma work, educational workers, their employers, and their leaders can collectively develop occupational wellbeing.
Key terms related to education
|Compassion Satisfaction||The pleasure or joy that is developed through connecting with kids, knowing one’s positive impact on society, and sharing one’s knowledge, skills, and competence with students.|
|Compassion Stress and Compassion Fatigue||Also called secondary traumatic stress, compassion stress/compassion fatigue are developed in response to helping others through, or to understand, a traumatic event. Symptoms include helplessness, changed worldview, and “putting self in a box.”|
|Crisis Work||Providing support and care for students during a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or violent classroom incident.|
|Trauma Work||Providing support and care after students have experienced a traumatic event, such as physical abuse or death of a parent.|
|Burnout||The cumulative effect of heavy workloads, large classroom sizes, and reduced preparation time. Symptoms include physical and emotional exhaustion, brain fog, and lack of interest in teaching and learning.|
Supporting educator wellness
Interventions are approaches to prevention and treatment that can alleviate the symptoms of compassion stress/fatigue and burnout. Self-directed interventions, such as eating well or getting exercise, are only one part of what’s needed to ensure occupational wellbeing.
Designed from the results of the Compassion Fatigue and Burnout Study (2022), HEARTcare is a framework that prompts educators to investigate and implement five interrelated interventions (school, system, individual, professional, educational worker) to prevent and treat compassion fatigue and burnout.
Interventions for wellbeing
|Examples of School Interventions||
|Examples of System Interventions||
|Examples of Professional Interventions||
|Examples of Individual Interventions||
More information: The HEARTcare educators’ website (www.heartcareeducators.ca) is a free, evidence-based website that includes a downloadable workbook and professional learning template, peer-reviewed articles, blogs, and other resources. Coming soon: everything in French!
Kendrick, A. H. (2022). Compassion fatigue, burnout, and the emotional labor of educational workers. The International Journal of Health, Wellness, and Society, 13(1), 31–55. doi:10.18848/2156-8960/CGP/v13i01/31-55.
Kendrick, A. H. (2021). Emotional labour, compassion fatigue, and burnout phase two research report. Alberta Teachers Association. www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Research/COOR-101-30-2%20Compassion%20Fatigue-P2-%202021%2006%2018-web.pdf