Evaluating an educational program about compassion fatigue for mental health nurses

Romney Pierog

Award: AMS/RNAO Fellow

Co-Sponsor: Kingston General Hospital

  • Provider wellness/resilience

The Advanced Clinical Practice Fellowship (ACPF) program has provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about program evaluation and sustainability processes. This fellowship was completed full time in the fall and winter of 2017-2018 under the guidance and supervision of my mentoring team (Joanna Noonan, Manager of Occupational Health, Safety and Wellness KHSC, Dr. Ken Welburn, Psychologist, Founder and former Executive Director of the Ottawa Anxiety and Trauma Clinic, and Dr. Joan Almost, Associate Professor and Associate Director of Nursing Graduate Programs at Queen’s University). Through this third fellowship experience, I have learned how I can contribute to have a more positive impact on the mental well being of all of those who provide and support patient care. The topic I decided to focus on for this RNAO/AMS Phoenix Fellowship was the evaluation and sustainability of an educational program on Compassion Fatigue awareness and resiliency. It is important to acknowledge that Compassion Fatigue can affect not only health care professionals, but also allied health and family caregivers, therefore this educational program’s future plan is meant for all individuals in an acute care setting. However, this fellowship focussed on evaluating the collected data from surveys and evaluations given out to mental health nurses in 4 phases. Phase 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this study included a baseline, 1, 6 months and 1-year post survey on questions relevant to compassion fatigue, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion satisfaction and empathic concern. The goal of this fellowship was to ascertain through evaluation, if the Compassion Fatigue educational program was able to improve the resiliency and ultimately the health and wellness of front-line mental health nurses. The Compassion Fatigue educational program pilot was implemented within the Mental Health Program during a Fellowship over a six-week period. Participants invited and encouraged to attend were front line nurses, management, and psychiatrists. Allied health also attended sessions. This project was proposed as a research study which included the completion of a formal ethics review through Queen’s University. Specific validated pre and post session measuring tools were used to help determine if this educational program about awareness and resiliency to Compassion Fatigue and Burnout can minimize Compassion Fatigue and/or reduce Burnout. Such skills as writing a Letter of Information, developing a validated survey, submitting a formal ethics proposal, inputting and analyzing data from surveys and evaluations obtained prior, during and after implementation and defining variables into SPSS with analysis was learned.  No formal program or study of this kind has ever been evaluated as of yet in Canada. The mission of The Compassion Fatigue Educational Program focused on four areas:

1. raising awareness,

2. teaching strategies for resilience to Compassion Fatigue,

3. providing the necessary emotional supports to individuals when needed, and,

4. minimizing and/or reducing the incidence of Compassion Fatigue

Overall, this ACPF program has been the most rewarding learning experience of my career. I have developed a variety of new skill sets that I can apply that will have a positive impact on myself, others and my organization. This fellowship has allowed me to lay the foundation for a sustainable compassion fatigue program.

I wanted to thank the RNAO and the AMS Phoenix for this amazing opportunity to learn, flourish and grow in my nursing career, as well as the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Kingston General Hospital site and my mentoring team who were incredibly supportive right from the onset. This being the best experience of my entire career, I strongly encourage anyone who has a learning interest to explore the ACPF program.