Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name





burnout, compassion fatigue, empathy, secondary traumatic stress, self-care, students


Kathryn Pfaff




The purpose of this study was to examine the experience of compassion fatigue among undergraduate nursing students in a four-year baccalaureate nursing program in Windsor, Ontario. Major sub-concepts of compassion fatigue (compassion satisfaction, burnout, secondary traumatic stress and empathy) were examined and guided by Figley’s model of Compassion Stress and Fatigue (2001). To date, little quantitative research has been conducted on this population, specifically within a setting that includes clinical experiences across all four years of the program. This study employed an online non-experimental, cross-sectional survey composed of four pre-validated measures (Professional Quality of Life scale (ProQOL), Maslach Burnout Inventory, Empathy Questionnaire and Silencing response scale) administered in the Winter 2019 semester. In this study, 244 undergraduate students completed the survey. Examining the findings of this study suggests that these students are at risk for the development of compassion fatigue. Results revealed above average high compassion satisfaction levels within first year students only, high empathy levels across the four years, varied intensity of burnout across the program, and high percentages of above average secondary traumatic stress across the four years of the program. High burnout and secondary traumatic stress with low compassion satisfaction highlight the risk of compassion fatigue amongst this population. Self-care protective factors were also examined and revealed that students who engaged in aerobic exercise had significantly lower burnout and secondary traumatic stress levels and students who practiced mindfulness based meditation had significantly higher empathy and compassion satisfaction scores. This study provides further insight into the experience of compassion fatigue within the nursing student population as well as recommendations of possible interventions that may support and foster resiliency among nursing students’ professional careers.