Prevalence of compassion fatigue among oncology health professionals in KZN, South Africa

Categories: Care, Featured, Opinion, and Research.

The prevalence of compassion fatigue among oncology healthcare professionals in three public healthcare facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Background/Context: Compassion fatigue (CF), a concept defined as a secondary traumatic response resulting from the close contact with the pain and suffering of others, is a serious challenge among healthcare professionals dealing with diseases with poor health outcomes in clinical settings. Chronic exposure to the suffering of others is inescapable in the oncology setting and is one of the main contributors to CF.

Aim: This study determined the prevalence of CF among oncology healthcare professionals (OHPs) in three public healthcare facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: Using the ProQOL-V questionnaire, this descriptive quantitative study was conducted among 60 consenting OHPs offering oncological services in three public healthcare facilities in KwaZulu-Natal. Three variables namely CF, burnout and compassion satisfaction (CS) were measured, with scores calculated using SPSS software to determine the frequencies of high, average and low scores of each variable.

Results: Preliminary results showed that 63.5% and 36.5% of OHPs had average and low CF, respectively. No participant scored high on CF. Similarly, no participant scored high on burnout, with 58.9% and 41.1% of OHPs scoring average and low, respectively. About 44.6% and 53.6% of OHPs had high and average CS, respectively, as opposed to only one participant who had low CS. Notably, high CS is a positive and desired effect of caregiving. Factors, such as high occupational stress, lack of self-care and lack of knowledge were associated with CF.

Discussion/Conclusion: Despite the study coinciding with COVID-19 epidemic, the prevalence of CF and burnout among OHPs, was below that of other studies, but high enough to warrant action. Unmanaged CF can have straining effects on the healthcare system generally, and on patient care, in particular. Evidence from this study can contribute to policy development and planning of intervention strategies towards CF among OHPs.

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