Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2023

Thesis Director

Catherine L. Polydore

Thesis Committee Member

Danessa Carter

Thesis Committee Member

Jody E. Stone


Compassion fatigue, a stress response caused by helping those who have experienced trauma, is a rapidly rising problem for student affairs professionals (Carter, 2019). Among student affairs professionals and paraprofessionals, the resident assistant (RA) is potentially one of the most susceptible populations to compassion fatigue, due to working where they live, which creates a constant need to be on. In addition, they are expected to support students who are increasingly presenting with mental health challenges. This explanatory mixed methods method study sought to first determine the prevalence of compassion fatigue, including its components burnout and secondary trauma, among RAs at five four-year public institutions in IL, then to understand the nature of compassion fatigue among those vital residence life student personnel. Findings suggest that about 75% of RAs experience at least moderate compassion fatigue. In addition, the expectation from students and supervisors that RAs be available 24/7, may contribute to this. Implications for practice and future research are also presented.

Keywords: resident assistants, compassion fatigue, burnout, secondary traumatic stress