Compassion fatigue has been defined as “the cost of caring” (Hamilton, 2008, p. 10) and used to describe the emotional reaction of a helper to another person’s trauma. While there are defined differences between the concepts of empathy and compassion, for the purposes of this study, the negative effects of each will be considered the same.
A great deal of research exists on the problem of compassion fatigue among health caregivers (Winch, Henderson, & Jones, 2012), social workers (Newell & Nelson-Gardell, 2014), school counselors (Wardle & Mayorga, 2016), and teachers (Abraham-Cook, 2012). Little research exists, however, describing incidents of compassion fatigue involving school administrators and the effects of that fatigue on his or her physical and emotional health, job performance, and career trajectory. This narrative inquiry will collect such stories from school leaders. Researchers will re-create the events through descriptive vignettes. From these vignettes, researchers will seek to identify significant themes.
Results of this study can be used to provide insight into the ways that school leaders experience compassion fatigue as they navigate through ethically and emotionally challenging events. Such insight can be used to inform those preparing to become school leaders, those who shape training programs for school leaders at both the pre-service and staff development level, and leaders themselves as they seek to understand the significant and complex effects of their experiences.