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Compassion Fatigue: From stress to strength: Recognise-respond-recover

In this issue of Healthcare Matters, we are proud to select EF training as our Specialist Mental Health Training Provider Company of the Month.

A recent report by NHS England found that compassion fatigue was endemic among its 1.3 million staff members. Poor mental health was common, leading to a quarter of staff absences and now sadly, death by suicide is now the highest among the caring professions. However, they also found that due care and attention given to compassion fatigue led to reduced staff sickness rates, improved performance and morale, showing that indeed caring for people who care matters.

CEO and Founder of EF training, Jayne Ellis describes compassion fatigue vividly as ‘vicarious trauma’ or secondary trauma, a set of acute symptoms that offer mirror the very people or animals that are being supported. These symptoms can manifest as irritability, breathlessness, feeling overwhelmed, often leading to shut-down and detachment, impacting on workplace performance and home life.

These feelings can be common across a wide range of professions including: medical/nursing staff, counsellors/therapists, charity workers, educationalists, funeral directors, prison officers and animal welfare workers. These amazing caregivers and professionals often possess innate empathy and kindness, which can be eroded through exposure to challenging emotional situations, daily patient distress through pain management, medical conditions and terminal illnesses.

The flight/fight response to this induced stress is linked to the ‘dark side of caring’ and the cycle of repressing feelings and just carrying on can have a profound impact on wellbeing, leading to high workplace absenteeism and other work-related illnesses.

EF training was established in 2010, as an antidote to increasing rates of compassionate fatigue by founder and CEO Jayne Ellis. With a previous nursing background and compassion fatigue sufferer herself, Jayne wanted to develop a quality, evidence-based training course to address these endemic issues. With an experienced team of trainers with backgrounds in palliative care, child protection, social care, animal welfare and alternative health, the training course is endorsed by The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP.)

EF training is the only UK-based company providing accredited bespoke Emotional Resilience training courses, designed to address the impact of compassion fatigue, as well as First Aid Mental Health Training. Based in the picturesque village of Old Windsor, Berkshire the company works proactively with companies right across the UK and Southern Ireland.

We spoke to Natalie Farran: Sales Manager to find out more about how EF training can help organisations combat the grinding impact of compassion fatigue, “EF training has proven positive results in staff retention and sickness levels. This is achieved by the meticulous monitoring and evaluations we carry out.”

“Being the only UK company accredited and endorsed by Skills for Care and The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), in Compassion Fatigue training, our training is appropriately recognised and has proven, evidence-based results.”

“We now have Part 2 to our training – Reflecting and Responding to Compassion Fatigue. This is designed to enable participants to recap the themes of the original course, take time to reflect on the impact of compassion/emotional fatigue in their personal and professional lives, and explore further strategies and tools to strengthen and maintain emotional well-being.”

EF training starts by carrying out a thorough consultation process, talking with Clinical Managers/HR Specialists, with a pre-course-questionnaire also designed to extensively hone in on staff feelings. This allows the trainers to identify specific areas for improvement, such as in-house wellbeing services. Throughout the CPD-accredited course, managers and staff learn to:

  • recognise the emotional impact of their daily job – the symptoms of compassion fatigue and further impact
  • respond to these symptoms through a holistic programme of diet, exercise and sleep
  • recover through mindfulness, self-care & self-compassion, leading to enhanced emotional resilience

Through recognising the underlying causes of compassion fatigue and its associated risk factors, staff can learn to effectively reduce and reverse the impact. The course teaches students to utilise practical and sustainable self-care remedies, designed for ongoing effectiveness.

What stands EF training apart from other training providers is the due care and diligence taken with pre- and post-course student evaluations. The company is the only training provider that carries out monitoring effectiveness follow-ups. After 12 weeks, all students are asked to fill in an evaluation form to assess the effect of the course on themselves and the team.

One particular case study is a nursing home, with high sickness rates and staff turnover, causing a deep chasm in everyday operations. Some of the staff acknowledged the emotional impact of their caregiving role at home and often felt guilty if they took time off, due to ill health. The students found the EF training course empowering and the subsequent follow-up found hugely improved staff communication and team morale. The management team had put clinical supervision into place after upsetting incidents, allowing for a more team-centred approach. Regular access to counselling and complimentary therapies meant the hardworking team felt more looked after and happier at work. The feedback from the staff was overwhelmingly glowing: “This should be mandatory training for all healthcare professionals- such as brilliant blend of theory and participation.”

A staggering 80% of all total EF training course participants had considered quitting their professions – this is despite fundamentally loving their jobs and a worrying 94% said work massively intruded on their home life.

The post-course respond evaluations are illuminating and heartwarming with comments such as, “The course made me feel validated”

The recover statistics speak for themselves: 99% felt the course had been a positive experience for them and their team

Managers are often stunned at the shift in team dynamics following the course, with increased communication and they felt more equipped to look after the precious wellbeing of their employees.

We asked Natalie what the future holds for EF training, “We plan to continually grow our client base, move into many different industries and maintain our expertise and excellence with our writing and delivery of our training, whilst constantly being aware of the needs of our clients. We will be collaborating more with other organisations/charities involved in wellbeing.”

“We are a truly passionate and driven team, who are dedicated to getting our vital training to all who need it.”

To learn how to manage workplace compassion fatigue, please see the
website below: