Background: Compassion fatigue among health care professionals has gained interest over the past decade. Compassion fatigue, as well as burnout, has been associated with depersonalization and suboptimal patient care. Professional caregivers in general are exposed to the risk of compassion fatigue (CF), burnout (BO) and low levels of compassion satisfaction (CS). While CF has been studied in health care professionals, few publications address its incidence among family physicians, specifically. The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence and severity of CF among family practitioners (FPs) in the Negev (Israel's southern region), evaluating the correlations between CF, BO and CS and their relations with socio-demographic variables and work related characteristics. Methods: Self-report anonymous Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Test questionnaires (CSFT) measuring CF, BO, and CS were distributed among 194 family physicians at Clalit Health Services clinics in the Negev between July 2007 and April 2008. Correlations between CF, BO and CS were assessed. Multivariable logistic regression models with backward elimination were constructed. Results: 128 (66%) physicians responded. 46.1% of respondents scored extremely high and high for CF, 21.1% scored low for CS and 9.4% scored high for BO. Strong correlations were found between BO and CF (r = 0.769, p < 0.001), and between BO and CS (r = -0.241, p = 0.006), but no correlation was found between CS and CF. The logistic regression model showed that the only factor associated with a significantly increased risk for CF was former immigration to Israel. Increased risk for BO was associated with female gender, history of personal trauma and lack of academic affiliation. Higher CS was associated with holding management positions and teaching residents. Conclusions and policy recommendations: Family physicians in the Negev are at high risk for CF, with the potential for CF- associated patient dissatisfaction, compromised patient safety and increased medical error. We propose creation of a CF educational and early intervention treatment program for family physicians and other health care professionals. Such programs would train facilitators of physician well-being and resiliency building. We also recommend analyzing contributing variables and organizational factors related to higher CF. Policy recommendations include integrating such programs within required risk management continuing medical education.
- Compassion fatigue
- Compassion satisfaction
- Family practice
- Secondary post-traumatic stress syndrome