Article Text

Prevalence, causes and consequences of compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue in emergency care: a mixed-methods study of UK NHS Consultants
  1. Sunil Dasan1,
  2. Poonam Gohil2,
  3. Victoria Cornelius3,
  4. Cath Taylor4
  1. 1Emergency Department, St George's Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Freelance researcher, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  4. 4Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sunil Dasan, Emergency Department, St George's Hospital, Blackshaw Road, London SW17 0QT, UK; sunil.dasan{at}


Objective To estimate prevalence and explore potential causes and consequences of compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue in UK emergency medicine consultants.

Methods A sequential mixed-methods design. Cross-sectional e-survey to all UK NHS emergency medicine consultants (n=1317) including Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) (compassion satisfaction/fatigue), followed by interviews with consultants scoring above (n=6) and below (n=6) predefined ProQOL thresholds.

Results 681 (52%) consultants responded. Most (98%) reported at least ‘average’ compassion satisfaction. Higher scores were associated with type of workplace (designated trauma centres faring better) and number of years worked as a consultant (gradually worsen over time, except 20 years onwards when it improves). Consultants with lower (worse) compassion satisfaction scores were more likely to report being irritable with patients or colleagues and reducing their standards of care (a third reported these behaviours at least monthly) and were more likely to intend to retire early (59% had such plans). Key features distinguishing ‘satisfied’ from ‘fatigued’ interviewed consultants included having strategies to deal with the high work intensities associated with their role and having positive views of the team within which they worked. The degree of variety in their roles and the ability to maintain empathy for their patients were also distinguishing features between these groups.

Conclusions Findings support an urgent review of workforce and resources in emergency medicine and suggest that a multifactorial approach to identification, prevention and treatment of occupational stress in the workforce is required that considers individual, job and organisational factors, particularly those that impact on perceived control and support at work.

  • emergency departments
  • psychology, staff support
  • clinical care

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