Methods: The scoping review protocol was developed using the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines and Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) scoping review framework. All years of eight academic databases – Social Work Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, Social Science Database, Sociological Abstracts, the Web of Science, PsycINFO, and PubMed were searched using the terms “compassion fatigue” and “compassion fatigue.” Google Scholar was used to supplement the search of the academic databases and improve the breadth and accuracy of the scoping review. A two-stage process with explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria was employed. At the first stage, only peer-reviewed research articles and conference proceedings were included. Other types of documents, such as dissertations and theses were excluded. During the second stage, titles and abstracts were screened to exclude duplicates, editorials, and studies using samples from other countries.
Results/Implications: One hundred and seventy-seven publications were identified and examined for their explicit or implicit definition and operationalization of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is variously defined as: (1) synonymous with STS/VT, (2) divergent from STS/VT, (3) synonymous with burnout, or (4) encompassing both STS and burnout as a higher order construct. Implications of the continued use of differing definitions of compassion fatigue in social work research will be discussed.