About this Research Topic
Providing care for animals in zoos and aquariums (henceforth zoos), as well as those in wildlife centers, sanctuaries, shelters, primate centers, and laboratory facilities brings many joys and positive experiences. However it may also leave one emotionally drained or numb by negative experiences, this is known as compassion exhaustion. Animal caregivers, curators, veterinarians, researchers, and other animal welfare staff (henceforth care professionals), often have high levels of compassion, empathy, and a drive to care for others and effect change. Caring for and serving others gives a sense of joy and achievement, providing compassion satisfaction. Recruitment of and access to social support, working in an effective team, supervising and directing positive outcomes, gaining professional experience, and using self-care strategies promote compassion satisfaction. Yet, these positive experiences often are combined with painful ethical dilemmas, where optimal solutions are not feasible, and decisions must be selected from among a variety of sub-optimal alternatives; this creates moral stress. Repeated exposure to distressing events, such as neglect, inaction, and animal euthanasia, can leave animal care professionals at risk of compassion fatigue or burnout. Common symptoms of compassion fatigue can include feeling mentally and physically tired, with sadness and apathy, bottled-up emotions, and an inability to get pleasure from activities that previously were enjoyable, as well as a lack of self-care. These serious problems have been well-documented among workers in settings such as veterinary practice, laboratory animal care, primate centers, and animal shelters, as well as other care professions such as doctors and nurses. Data from zoos are lacking to date.
For this Research Topic, we welcome papers related to occupational stress and joy for animal care professionals in zoos, sanctuaries, wildlife centers, shelters, and laboratory animal facilities. Subjects may include but are not limited to compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, human-animal experiences, case studies, tools and strategies of care and coping, collective procedures and frameworks to guide in decision-making (e.g., end-of-life decisions), and case studies. We also welcome papers on the experiences of animals, such as mourning behaviors and grief.
For the purposes of this Research Topic, all animals/species can be included, e.g., domesticated animals may find themselves in a zoo or sanctuary, and wild animals in shelters and research laboratories.
Keywords: Care professionals, Compassion satisfaction, Compassion fatigue, Moral stress, Self-care, Animal care
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.