When the Well Runs Dry: Compassion Fatigue and the Work of Professional Caregiving

March 27, 2020



March 27, 2020, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.


A fundamental connection between personal and communal well-being exists, yet too often attention is not given to the caregiver. In this class, we will explore physiological, pastoral, and behavioral facets of compassion fatigue. For caregivers to be effective, they must be able to listen carefully what they are experiencing in their own bodies. This kind of self-awareness makes it possible for caregivers to notice when they are feeling stress, fatigue, or burnout and to take practical steps to address these challenges.

This event is geared toward clergy, ministry leaders, and mental health professionals. CEs will be available for licensed social workers, professional counselors, and marriage/family therapists. CEUs will be available for clergy and laity.

Co-sponsored with Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute. Support provided by Desert Ministries Inc., and its founding director, the late Rev. Dr. Richard M. Cromie.


Upon completion of this class, participants should be able to:

  • Explore the connections between effective caregiving for others and care for one’s own needs; and
  • Begin developing strategies to address compassion fatigue/burnout and improve practices of self-care.
  • Practice 5 simple body-based strategies to help you sustain yourself as a caregiver.
  • Understand the role of the vagus nerve; how to develop vagal tone; and why it matters to your overall mental and physical health.


Donna M. Posluszny is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Associate Director of Training for the Biobehavioral Medicine in Oncology Program. She is also a clinical psychologist who is board-certified in Clinical Health Psychology and who has conducted psychosocial and behavioral research in various cancer populations. She is particularly interested in how the patient and caregiver work together to adhere to patient care plans. Most recently she completed an NIH funded prospective, longitudinal study examining how hematologic malignancy patients and family caregivers adhere to the medical regimen for allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) post hospital discharge. Presently, Dr. Posluszny is examining psychosocial and behavioral strategies to help HCT patients and family caregivers manage each component of the post-HCT regimen together, and thus improve psychological and health outcomes. She is also developing a pilot study investigating the family caregiver’s role at the hospital, while the patient is admitted for a long period of time, e.g., one month.

Leanna Fuller, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care, PTS. Leanna is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (PhD), Vanderbilt Divinity School (MDiv), and Furman University (BA). Her most recent book is titled When Christ’s Body is Broken: Anxiety, Identity, and Conflict in Congregations (Wipf and Stock, 2016). Fuller has earned numerous fellowships, awards, and honors. She was selected to participate in the 2016-2017 Wabash Center Workshop for Early Career Theological School Faculty, and she received the Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship in 2010-2011. Fuller’s most recent conference paper, “One Body, Many Parts: An Ecclesiology for Churches in Conflict” was presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Her ministry experience includes serving as associate pastor of Oakland Christian Church in Suffolk, Va., where she coordinated youth ministry and Christian education programming. Fuller is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and her ministry experience includes both parish work and hospital chaplaincy.

Joanne Spence is a certified yoga therapist and owner of Urban Oasis Pittsburgh. She is also a recent graduate of PTS where her master’s work focused on spiritual formation, pastoral care, and forming her own theology of the body. Her master’s thesis tackled the intersection of Christian contemplative practice, practical theology, and breathing practices for middle-school-aged children. She is now taking that academic work into schools and hospitals—including at Pittsburgh’s VA, where she teaches therapeutic chair yoga to veterans seeking inpatient behavioral health treatment. Specializing in the use of breathing exercises and gentle movement, Joanne employs yoga to address people’s symptoms of depression and anxiety. “Determined to remain God’s open vessel,” Joanne envisions future work that may also involve teaching at the graduate level, writing books, and missional work locally and in Asia.



Registration fee: $30

CEs for licensed professionals: $10



Directions to the Seminary. Free parking is available on campus behind the chapel and library. Signs will be on campus to direct you to the location of the class.

CEUs and CEs

0.6 CEUs will be available upon request for clergy and laity.

CEs will be available for licensed social workers, marriage/family therapists, and professional counselors. Payment is an optional item selected during the checkout process at the time of registration.


E-mail [email protected] or call 412-924-1345.