More than half of local medical professionals and first responders have suffered from compassion fatigue, according to a community impact report released by a Sarasota-based nonprofit that helps people cope with trauma.
Resilient Retreat collected the data to demonstrate the need for trauma-based services in Sarasota and Manatee counties for healthcare workers and first responders.
The organization’s executive director, Lisa Intagliata, says the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has deeply affected people who help others.
“They will feel compassion fatigue because they can mirror what’s going on in the situation and what’s going on in the lives they’re saving and they often internalize that,” she said. “It’s actually a psychological phenomenon in your brain. All of us have mirror neurons and sometimes those mirror neurons, they reflect situations of stress and trauma.”
According to the survey, 52% of local healthcare professionals and first responders reported experiencing compassion fatigue, with 39% reporting moderate to severe secondary traumatic stress.
Mental health experts say compassion fatigue is often confused with burnout. But it’s more acute than just being tired. Healthcare workers and first responders are prone to mixing the stress of traumatic events they witness at work with the personal stress they experience.
Intagliata says the physical, emotional and psychological impact of helping others during the pandemic is significant.
“Seeing the patients in isolation, sometimes having to use tablets and iPhones to correspond with family members about the loved one who was hospitalized, it had a huge impact on mental health.”
The survey was produced to guide agencies on how best to help local health workers cope.