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Grief Over Patients, its Implications on Compassion Fatigue and the Role of Social Acknowledgment Among Psycho-oncologists.

Conducted by:

Dr. Michal Braun; Prof. Gil Goldzweig, Mrs. Adi Angler; Prof. Ilanit Hasson Ohayon / School of Behavioral Science

Background: Loss of patients is an integral part of work in oncology setting and may cause grief reactions among psycho-oncologists.  Grief over patients might be related to the development of compassion fatigue. A traumatizing emotional state experienced by health care providers who are preoccupied with the suffering and the distress of those they care for and it is expressed in a reduced capacity of interest in being empathic. In addition, the current study examined the role of social acknowledgment on this association. This is a person's experience of reactions from society, that show appreciation for his unique state and acknowledge his current difficult situation, after a traumatizing event. Due to the professional nature of the relationship, it might be that the psycho-oncologist will experience his grief reaction as inappropriate and not socially valid and that might increase his compassion fatigue.

The goal of the proposed study was to examine if grief of psycho-oncologists affects their compassion fatigue. Second, this study examined the influence of social acknowledgment as a moderator between grief and compassion fatigue.

Method: The participants were recruited on a voluntary basis. they completed informed consent and questionnaires through an online platform. The questionnaires included: Demographic questionnaire, the Professional Quality of Life Questionnaire, The Texas Revised Inventory of Grief - Present Scale and the Social Acknowledgment Questionnaire.

Results: 60 Israeli psycho-oncologist reported moderate to high levels of grief (M = 27.72, SD = 7.43) and high levels of Compassion Fatigue (M=15.91, SD=7.35). Grief and compassion fatigue were associated (r=.38**). K-means Cluster analysis of the participants based on SAQ and grief yielded 3 meaningful clusters: Low SAQ-High Grief (n=23); Medium SAQ-Low grief (n=21); High SAQ-Medium grief (n=16); Compassion Fatigue in the LOW SAQ-High Grief was significantly higher in comparison to each of the other clusters.

Conclusions: Psycho-oncologists experience loss of patients as part of their work. In response they develop grief responses. This grief when is not acknowledge results in high levels of compassion fatigue, a phenomenon with undesirable personal and professional implications. 

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