Exploring Compassion Fatigue and Burnout in Healthcare Professionals: A Scoping Review


  • Kayla Kaminski


Background:  Burnout, which affects 51% of physicians and one-third of nurses in the United States (Reith, 2018), and compassion fatigue, which affects caregivers that are exposed to a secondary trauma (Figley, 1995) frequently co-occur in the healthcare workplace. The purpose of this article is to provide information that will assist nurses and physicians to develop an understanding of compassion fatigue and burnout, and their co-occurence in the workplace.

Methods: Key terms were searched on the Cumulative Index of Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and PubMed databases as part of a scoping review to (a) investigate causative factors that contribute to the onset of compassion fatigue and burnout in healthcare professionals (b) investigate protective factors that prevent or lessen the risk of compassion fatigue and burnout in healthcare professionals (c) determine the effects of compassion fatigue and burnout on healthcare professionals (d) identify diagnostic tools to diagnose compassion fatigue and burnout.

Results: Causative factors included chronic stress, critical care and front-line specialties, poor self-efficacy, personality, poor coping skills and lack of social or structural support. Enhancing resilience, mindfulness, self-compassion, structural and social support will reduce the rates of compassion fatigue and burnout among healthcare professionals.

Conclusion: Burnout or compassion fatigue are associated with negative physical and mental health effects. Effectively addressing compassion fatigue and burnout will enhance healthcare professional well-being and patient outcomes. More research is needed to determine the financial impact of compassion fatigue and burnout and to reduce workplace stressors.