Compassion fatigue: the cost of caring in an American Indian school community
Erickson, Keith Marion
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Educators who work with Native American students often encounter and experience the personal trauma that students bring into the classroom. The risk of dealing with intense student trauma is the development of compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout. Compassion fatigue is a result of bottling up emotions and is often referred to as the cost of caring (Smith, 2013). The goals of this study were to: (1) determine the rates of compassion fatigue for educators working in this Northern Rockies Indian Reservation school district; (2) explore how teachers within this district perceive self-care, access to mental health care, and organizational commitments to well-being; and (3) understand what educators with this district perceive as important for educational leaders to know in identifying and providing support to teachers with compassion fatigue. The embedded case research model used the Professional Quality of Life survey to determine compassion fatigue scores. Then, an interview pool was formed based upon the compassion fatigue range scores. Six participants were choses to be interviewed for the research study. Qualitative data analysis was completed with a strict focus on trustworthiness and validity. Three themes were developed-student home life, the school's response to trauma, and teacher/student trauma. These results demonstrated that teachers in this Northern Rockies Indian Reservation school district struggle with compassion fatigue and have minimal emotional support from educational leaders for compassion fatigue. School district leaders must address the issue of compassion fatigue locally and push for systemic reform throughout Indian education.