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What Helps Oiled Wildlife Responders Care for Animals While Minimizing Stress and Compassion Fatigue


Oil spills are environmental disasters and their long-term impact is not just a concern for the environment and economy, but also for first responders' health and wellbeing. Wildlife, such as aquatic birds and certain marine mammals, are highly susceptible to physiological effects of oiling, and oiled wildlife responders are crucial to provide measures for their survival. The purpose of this research was to explore the experiences of oiled wildlife responders and what factors and conditions have helped or inhibited the responders to care-affected wildlife. This study collected responses (n = 50) from a survey of responders who attended either the New Zealand MV Rena or US Refugio pipeline oil spills. Study participants were mostly older (>40), highly educated females. We found there were significant differences in compassion satisfaction, resilience, burnout and overall satisfaction based on age, gender and role. While most responders have only attended limited numbers of oil spill incidents, they reported positive experiences and found it rewarding. Findings from responders indicated that to lessen stress and compassion fatigue during an incident, provision of training and support from professional organizations equips responders with knowledge and skills that can support their personal resilience to respond to disaster events.

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