Compassion fatigue and the effectiveness of support structures for diagnostic radiographers in oncology

Published:December 02, 2020DOI:



      Diagnostic radiographers working in oncology will have frequent contact with the same patients over a prolonged period. This can be mentally exhausting for the radiographer. Compassion fatigue (CF) occurs after repeated exposure to stressful situations and it can become overwhelming, leading to irritability and decreased empathy. CF has been known to affect many healthcare professions, however few studies have examined diagnostic radiographers, nor if the current support systems are suitable.


      An exploratory study was conducted as part of a local quality improvement project. An anonymised questionnaire was sent to all radiographers in a single oncology hospital within the UK to assess if the support provided met their needs.


      Sixty percent of those questioned responded. Almost half found their work affected their mental wellbeing, but they felt they could manage this stress at work. Almost all felt that some sort of support should be offered to the radiographers. The most popular options were already provided by the hospital, however many felt they were not accessible for a variety of reasons. When discussed further, it was found that the timings were prohibitive as most were held when they could not attend.


      Diagnostic radiographers working in oncology settings are at risk of CF. Although support structures are in place, they may not currently meet the needs of this staff group and at times are inaccessible.

      Implications for practice

      Providing specific, accessible support for diagnostic radiographers will help reduce the potential effects of CF, reduce stress-related sickness and ultimately improve the service for patients.



      Les radiographes diagnosticiens travaillant en oncologie auront des contacts fréquents avec les mêmes patients pendant une période prolongée. Cela peut être mentalement épuisant pour le radiologue. La fatigue compassionnelle (FC) survient après une exposition répétée à des situations stressantes et peut devenir écrasante, entraînant une irritabilité et une diminution de l'empathie. On sait que la FC affecte de nombreuses professions de santé, mais peu d'études ont examiné les radiographes diagnosticiens et on ne sait pas non plus si les systèmes de soutien actuels sont adaptés.


      Une étude exploratoire a été menée dans le cadre d'un projet local d'amélioration de la qualité. Un questionnaire anonymisé a été envoyé à tous les radiographes d'un seul hôpital d'oncologie au Royaume-Uni afin d'évaluer si le soutien fourni répondait à leurs besoins.


      Soixante pour cent des personnes interrogées ont répondu. Près de la moitié ont trouvé que leur travail affectait leur bien-être mental, mais ils ont estimé qu'ils pouvaient gérer ce stress au travail. Presque tous estimaient qu'il fallait offrir une sorte de soutien aux radiographes. Les options les plus populaires étaient déjà fournies par l'hôpital, mais beaucoup estimaient qu'elles n'étaient pas accessibles pour diverses raisons. Lors d'une discussion plus approfondie, il s'est avéré que les horaires étaient prohibitifs, car la plupart étaient organisées à des moments où ils ne pouvaient pas y assister.


      Les radiographes diagnosticiens travaillant dans le cadre de l'oncologie sont exposés au risque de FC. Bien que des structures de soutien soient en place, elles ne répondent peut-être pas actuellement aux besoins de ce groupe de personnel et sont parfois inaccessibles.

      Implications pour la pratique

      La fourniture d'un soutien spécifique et accessible aux radiographes de diagnostic contribuera à réduire les effets potentiels de la FC, à diminuer les maladies liées au stress et, en fin de compte, à améliorer le service aux patients.


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