The Professional Quality of Life Scale – 5 (ProQOL)
The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) is a 30 item self-report questionnaire designed to measure compassion fatigue, work satisfaction and burnout in helping professionals. Helping professionals are defined broadly, from those in health care settings, such as psychologists, nurses and doctors, to social service workers, teachers, police officers, firefighters or other first responders. It is useful for workers who perform emotional labour as well as professionals who are exposed to traumatic situations.
Professional Quality of Life is the quality one feels in relation to one’s work as a helper. Both the positive and negative aspects of doing one’s job influence ones professional quality of life. The ProQOL measures three aspects of professional quality of life:
- Compassion Satisfaction (pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well)
- Burnout (exhaustion, frustration, anger and depression related to work)
- Secondary Traumatic Stress (feeling fear in relation to work‐related primary or secondary trauma)
The scale is particularly useful for professionals to self-monitor their satisfaction and as a prompt for self-care. In addition, service managers seeking to facilitate staff wellbeing can use the ProQOL to track professional quality of life over time to help inform workload, leave and support decisions.
The scale uses words such as [help], [helping] and [helper] to broadly capture the work of helping professionals. When introducing the scale to a client it may be worth noting that they can think of more applicable words as a substitute.
Validity and Reliability
The ProQOL is the most commonly used measure of the positive and negative effects of working with people who have experienced extremely stressful events (Stamm 2010). The measure was originally called the Compassion Fatigue Self Test and developed by Charles Figley in the late 1980s, the ProQOL 5th edition was developed in 2009. For a full summary of the psychometric properties of the ProQOL see the Concise ProQOL Manual, 2nd Ed. Pocatello at ProQOL.org.
The manual (Stamm 2010) provides normative data for helping professionals generally.
For each of the sub-scales scores are categorised as Low (22 or less), Moderate (between 23 and 41) or High (42 or more). Below are the corresponding percentiles for each the cutoffs for each sub-scale, based on the ProQOL manual.
– Compassion Satisfaction –
Low = 4th percentile or less
High = 75th percentile or more
– Burnout –
Low = 61.5 percentile or less
High = 99th percentile or more
– Secondary Traumatic Stress –
Low = 91st percentile or less
High = 99th percentile or more
Raw scores between 10 and 50 are presented for the three subscales (1) Compassion Satisfaction, (2) Burnout and (3) Secondary Traumatic Stress. Each score is also presented as a percentile rank comparing the respondent’s scores to scores of helping professionals generally (such as psychologists, doctors, teachers and first responders). A percentile of 50 represents an average score. High scores on Compassion Satisfaction and low scores on Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress are indicative of professional health.
– Compassion Satisfaction (items 3, 6, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30)
Compassion satisfaction is about the pleasure you derive from being able to do your work well. For example, you may feel like it is a pleasure to help others through your work. You may feel positively about your colleagues or your ability to contribute to the work setting or even the greater good of society. Higher scores on this scale represent a greater satisfaction related to your ability to be an effective caregiver in your job. If you are in the high range, you probably derive a good deal of professional satisfaction from your position.
– Burnout (items 1, 4, 8, 10, 15, 17, 19, 21, 26, 29)
Burnout is one of the elements of Compassion Fatigue. It is associated with feelings of hopelessness and difficulties in dealing with work or in doing your job effectively. These negative feelings usually have a gradual onset. They can reflect the feeling that your efforts make no difference, or they can be associated with a very high workload or a non-supportive work environment. Higher scores on this scale mean that you are at higher risk for burnout.
– Secondary Traumatic Stress (items 2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 23, 25, 28)
The second component of Compassion Fatigue is Secondary Traumatic Stress. It is about your work related, secondary exposure to stressful events. The symptoms of Secondary Traumatic Stress are usually rapid in onset and associated with a particular event.
If scores are of a particularly meaningful profile the interpretive text section provides an interpretation of the constellations of scores.
B. Hudnall Stamm, 2009-2012. Professional Quality of Life: Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Version 5 (ProQOL). www.proqol.org.
Stamm, B.H. (2010). The Concise ProQOL Manual, 2nd Ed. Pocatello, ID: