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Open Access Using a Staff Survey to Customize Burnout and Compassion Fatigue Mitigation Recommendations in a Lab Animal Facility

Working with research animals exposes employees to emotionally demanding work and moral stressors. The emotional impact of animal research is similar to that of working with human patients, and is similarly associated with burnout (BNO) or compassion fatigue (CF), which can lead to psychosomatic symptoms, pervasive states of stress, workplace conflict, and at its most extreme, suicidal ideation. One remedy for such feelings is increasing the satisfaction one feels from performing one's job well, known as compassion satisfaction (Csat). To address these occupational health concerns in an academic research setting, the Ohio State University's Lab Animal Resources (ULAR) study team reviewed existing preventative programing both internal and external to the university. Subsequently, a survey was distributed to all staff members to assess the following factors: employee awareness of free resources already available to them, association between staff demographics and the experience of BNO and/or CF, and the employee's own mitigation recommendations. Respondents were mostly female, in 20 to 49 age range, with 0 to 4 y in the field. Of those responding, 81.6% specified that they had experienced BNO and CF alone, together, or in combination with CSat. Factors statistically associated (P < 0.05) with BNO and CF were age, number of years in the field, and number of animals euthanized per year. A relative risk analysis was also used to identify protective factors. Only the age of respondents appeared to be a protective factor— the 50+ age group had 88.57% (RR = 0.1143) reduction in risk for experiencing BNO and/or CF. Participant suggestions indicated that employees would like improvements to the work environment, more novel work experiences, and more positive feedback from department leadership. The social ecological model, a public health model for program interventions, was used as a framework for the development of recommendations to mitigate BNO and CF while increasing CSat. The recommendations were customized for ULAR employees based on the survey findings.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University Laboratory Animal Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio;, Email: [email protected] 2: College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 3: College of Public Health, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 4: University Laboratory Animal Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Publication date: March 1, 2020

This article was made available online on February 5, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Using a Staff Survey to Customize Burnout and Compassion Fatigue Mitigation Recommendations in a Lab Animal Facility".

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

    Attention Members: To access the full text of the articles, be sure you are logged in to the AALAS website.

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