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Averting compassion fatigue and burnout. Who should help us conquer our demons?
  1. Tajek B Hassan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tajek B Hassan, Department of Emergency Medicine, Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Gt George St, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds LS1 3 EX, UK; taj.hassan{at}

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What makes a good emergency physician (EP) in today's world? If you had to choose one thing what would it be? Is it about being trained to perform and maintain skills in rare life-saving procedures, being adept with an ultrasound probe or mobilising and maintaining your team's morale through a busy shift late at night in the Emergency Department (ED). Or is it much more about being able to consistently role model for your team a compassionate caring attitude through a hectic shift and even more importantly sustain it through a satisfying clinical career.

In their EMJ paper, Dasan et al1 shine a brighter light on a seemingly neglected area of our practice and help us quantify where we are and where we need to be. Although the study is based in the UK, there are valuable lessons for the international community in Emergency Medicine. Indeed, as we know, the phenomenon of ‘burnout’ is well recognised in almost all spheres of work in the developed world, with medicine providing ever increasing examples. Policymakers and health commissioners will need to pay increasing attention if they are to produce the ‘best value for money’ from the staff they spend years training at great expense. This applies to attract them into these vital specialties and to retain them for the long term. Equally important in the complex formula of course is the responsibility of the individual and how they care for themselves.

Compassion fatigue is defined as a combination of emotional, physical and spiritual depletion when caring for patients in emotional and physical distress.2 Burnout, on the other hand, tends to be more insidious in onset and is characterised by feelings of depersonalisation (cynicism), loss of …

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