Compassion fatigue awareness and rescuing the rescuer

Submitted by Jan Murphy

Islanders may have heard the term, “compassion fatigue” in recent years. It is a topic that is increasingly discussed as caregivers in a variety of fields struggle to understand it and the impact it has on those involved in healthcare, animal welfare, elder care and family-member care.

Patricia Smith, the founder of The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project and Friday Harbor resident, says, “Compassion fatigue is a broadly defined concept that can include emotional, physical and spiritual distress in those providing care for another.” Smith has traveled extensively speaking to staff members of animal shelters, police departments, hospitals and other facilities where occupational burnout is an issue. She has written three books on the topic and is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist.

Smith has joined forces with Friday Harbor resident and former Manager of the Animal Protection Society, Jan Murphy, to present a three-day wellness retreat in Sedro Wooley, May 3-5 entitled, “Rescuing the Rescuer.” The retreat is designed specifically for those who work in the areas of animal care, sanctuary and rescue.

Smith previously worked in a large animal shelter and has led CF training in animal care facilities and shelters around the country. Murphy has over 40 years of animal care and rescue experience, including greyhound rescue, farm sanctuary work and active involvement in ending the bear bile farming industry in China and Vietnam. Their combined experience makes them both keenly aware of the problems and risks associated with compassion fatigue. The retreat is their way of reaching out to others experiencing this type of burnout, to offer solutions and ideas to combat the many ways caring for others can deplete a person. Murphy says, “We need these people in our midst; those with compassion who are called to help others. We want to help in the healing process so those who attend can leave the retreat feeling rejuvenated with a renewed sense of purpose, enabling them to continue their life-saving work in a healthy way.”

The retreat will take place at The Lodge at Cedar Springs in Sedro Wooley and will feature guided meditation, yoga, prepared vegan meals and facilitated discussions on managing burnout, grief counseling and self-care methods. Massage therapy and hypnothereapy sessions will also be available at an additional cost.

For more information or to reserve a spot at the retreat, visit

For more information about Patricia Smith and The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, visit