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STAF138-1010 : Compassion Fatigue Module 1: Healing Ourselves

Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

October 1-November 5, 2010
Real Time Sessions: Thursdays, October 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2010; 8:00pm-9:00pm ET (USA)

Chances are you entered the veterinary or animal healthcare world because of your love of animals. That has remained your passion, although now you may be experiencing emotional difficulty in the role of caregiver. You are not alone - every care giving profession can suffer from two similar but different conditions: burnout, and compassion fatigue. Yet even if you are feeling toasted around the edges, or your compassion has been stretched thin, you can learn how to diagnose your condition so that the proper treatment plan can be generated. This course will help you to identify why the job tends to get tougher by the year, by the month or week even, and what you can do to turn things around. Your love of animals led you to this career, but your love for yourself will carry you through.

This course will consist of four (4) sixty (60) minute real time sessions; library materials supplementing the required reading; multiple choice quizzes (after each real time session) designed to enhance course effectiveness and material retention; a cumulative final exam online; and interactive message board discussions. Katherine Dobbs holds credentials as a RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician), CVPM (Certified Veterinary Practice Manager), and PHR (Professional in Human Resources). She has taught and lectured worldwide both in onsite and online venues.

This course is designed for ALL veterinary and animal healthcare professionals, regardless of their position or type of practice/facility.

Upon completion of this course, the participant should be able to

TEXTBOOKS: There are NO required textbooks for this course. Required reading will be in the course area library upon the course opening.


Week 1: Compassion Fatigue vs. Burnout - Diagnosis is First
Content: How many of you have heard of burnout? Likely everyone in class has. How about compassion fatigue, does that ring a bell? For many, although they may not know the definition for the term compassion fatigue, they realize that this sounds like something they are dealing with in their professional role as a care giver. Come learn the difference between burnout and compassion fatigue, and why a proper diagnosis can lead to a much more successful prognosis. We explore specific burnout symptoms that happen in healthcare settings, and leave with tools to help us reduce the transfer of emotional contagion and evaluate our own levels of satisfaction and burnout while we continue to do the important work we are called to do.

Week 2: Exposing Compassion Fatigue - Letting the Cat out of the Bag
Content: Looking deeper into compassion fatigue, we discover there are factors that cause us to be more susceptible to this condition. By learning the actual symptoms, you can better diagnose yourself and perhaps those around you in your practice and the profession. Compassion fatigue does not only affect you during the workday, though; you cannot just stuff it into your locker at the end of the day. There are symptoms of compassion fatigue that you may see at home, when you are trying to enjoy your time off work. We are not two separate beings, at work then at home, so we need to learn how to apply what we learn about compassion fatigue to our total lives. Private assignments will help us to reflect on our personal experience with compassion fatigue, while interactive discussions on the message boards will help us understand that we are not alone!

Week 3: Compassion Fatigue - Focus on You
Content: By learning the 5 Phases of a career in care giving, we learn what challenges lay ahead and what successes now lay behind us. We discover that a career in care giving is more like a marathon than a sprint, and we must pace ourselves for the long haul. Taking care of yourself is the key to minimizing and preventing compassion fatigue. Yet, it is not as easy as it sounds. We will work through several self-care exercises as homework, to spend time in personal reflection and share as much as you are comfortable with other students who are seeking a healthier relationship with their work. The Life Stress Test is taken by each student, to help us realize that there are many stressors we are trying to juggle in our lives. We learn that as care givers, we have certain Rights that we need to uphold and maintain in order to continue our important work.

Week 4: Compassion Fatigue - Focus on the Workplace
Content: We explore some specific factors that lead to compassion fatigue in healthcare workers, and we discover that when our people experience compassion fatigue, so does our workplace; it can pervade the entire culture. The symptoms of organizational compassion fatigue are examined, with an eye on how we can turn things around. We explore a positive and toxic work environment, so we can identify when we have made significant change. Managers who are trying to heal the practice must first heal themselves, and we learn how their susceptibility to compassion fatigue can be significantly higher. Finally, we discuss just who is responsible to make the changes to help the people and the practice, and explore the "three-pronged approach" to increasing awareness and healing in our profession.

LIBRARY MATERIALS: Library materials will be made available prior to the topic week so participants will have plenty of time to prepare for the real time sessions and discussion.

MESSAGE BOARD DISCUSSIONS: Message board discussions regarding the topic presented will begin on the day the course opens and continue for one week following the last real time session. These discussions will be held in the VSPN CE course area.


$80 ($72.00 early bird special if registered before September 17, 2010).
*Enroll in both Compassion Fatigue modules before October 7, 2010 and receive a 15% discount off the regular course price.
*Students currently enrolled in and taking at least 2 classes or 5 units at an AVMA accredited or CAAHT approved Veterinary Technician Program may be eligible to receive a 50% discount off the regular rate for this course (upon verification of student status). You must include the following information in the comments section of the CE enrollment form in order to be eligible for this discount: your program director's name and contact information (email/phone) and school name.

** NOTE: Enrollment will be closed when the maximum number of participants is reached or at 5pm ET the day of the first real time session.

**For more on how online CE works see the VSPN Participant's Resource Center


  1. Each person must individually be a registered member of VSPN ( Membership in VSPN is free.
  2. To enroll in any VSPN CE course click on the ENROLL NOW link below the course title on the right side of the page at
  3. Each enrollee must be able to receive emails from and addresses. This is our major form of communication with participants. It is highly recommended that course participants use their own, personal emails rather than clinic/hospital email addresses.
  4. VIN Member veterinarians SHOULD NOT register for their staff. Please have the staff member register through VSPN. Please email if you have questions.
  5. VIN Member veterinarians ARE ELIGIBLE to take this course; this course is being submitted to RACE and VHMA approved for both veterinarians and veterinary technicians. **Please access the course enrollment through
Note: "This course has been submitted for approval for 4 continuing education credits in jurisdictions which recognize AAVSB RACE approval; however participants should be aware that some boards have limitations on the number of hours accepted in certain categories and/or restrictions on certain methods of delivery of continuing education. Call VSPN CE at 1-800-700-4636 for further information." (Attendees are encouraged to check with their licensing jurisdiction(s) for information regarding recognition by their board).
This course has been approved for continual education units toward CVPM requirements through VHMA.
COURSE WITHDRAWAL AND REFUND POLICY: Withdrawal prior to the listed start date of a course entitles the registrant to a complete refund or a credit toward a future VIN CE course, whichever is preferred. Withdrawal within 1 week after the listed start date (i.e. including no more than one real-time session) entitles the registrant to a credit toward any future VIN CE course. (Refund policy does not apply to courses with only one real-time session.) After the first real-time session, a registrant may withdraw due to special circumstances and receive prorated credit towards a future VIN course. These requests will be handled on an individual basis. The amount of the prorated credit will be determined based on 65% of the time remaining in the course at the time of withdrawal. It is not possible to withdraw retroactively.
Note: To ensure rapid handling of your request for withdrawal, we recommend that you call the VIN office at 1-800-700-INFO (4636).
** For More Information on VSPN's upcoming CE Courses, check out

Nanette R. Walker Smith, M.Ed., RVT, CVT, LVT
VSPN Content Director & VSPN CE Director

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