Exploring Compassion Fatigue and Satisfaction Among Refugee Leaders in the DFW Area




Raines-Milenkov, Amy DrPH
Berg, Elyssa
Kwentua, Victoria


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Purpose: Compassion fatigue describes the secondary traumatic stress seen in those working with others that have experienced trauma. It can lead to chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and eventually burnout. Compassion fatigue has been studied in numerous helper and caregiver roles, such as social workers, nurses, and child protection caseworkers. However, research has not been conducted to investigate the presence of compassion fatigue within refugee populations or to understand how compassion fatigue may affect community leaders in this high-risk population. This study will explore the behavioral, emotional and physical effects of working with refugees among refugee leaders. Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with refugee leaders working with refugees in the DFW area. Each participant completed a demographic questionnaire, a comprehensive interview and Professional Quality of Life Scale: Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue Version 5 (ProQOL). The ProQOL questionnaire is a validated tool used to assess compassion fatigue. Results: Nine refugee leaders, representing six refugee groups, completed the demographic questionnaire, interview and ProQOL questionnaire. Participants reported a high level of compassion satisfaction (mean = 44.2), a low level of burnout (mean = 18.9), and a varied level of secondary traumatic stress. Refugee leaders reported a reliance on faith and a compulsion to help others due to their refugee experience as factors that outweighed the cost to their family wellbeing, physical and emotional health. Conclusions: Refugee leaders are highly resilient. They are often recruited by health care organizations, researchers and resettlement agencies to provide services and information to other refugees. These findings have implications for organizations to provide training on self-care practices and support services.