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:
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.
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).
In addition the standard norms, NovoPsych created norms specific to Australian Psychologists (n = 245, Hegarty & Buchanan 2021). It was found that these norms were more appropriate for mental health workers, as they better capture the spread of professional wellbeing experiences. This data showed the following means and standard deviations:
– Compassion Satisfaction, Mean = 37.0, SD = 6.0
– Burnout, Mean = 26.2, SD = 5.6
– Secondary Traumatic Stress, Mean = 22.4, SD = 5.9.
There were substantial differences in patterns of responding between the Stamm (2010) and Hegarty and Buchanan (2021) samples for the burnout and secondary traumatic stress subscales.
Raw scores between 10 and 50 are presented for the three subscales (1) Compassion Satisfaction, (2) Burnout and (3) Secondary Traumatic Stress.
Each subscale score is also presented as two percentile ranks, comparing the respondent’s scores to typical patterns of responding for helping professionals generally ( a sample of teachers, police, clergy, doctors and first responders), and percentiles specific to psychologists.
A percentile of 50 represents an average score in relation to the comparison group. Interpretation using the comparison group that most closely responds to the corespondent’s work setting is recommended.
– 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:
Hegarty, D. & Buchanan, B. ( 2021, November 29). Psychologist Norms for the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL). https://novopsych.com.au/news/psychologist-norms-for-the-professional-quality-of-life-scale-proqol/