Working with animals has taught Desleigh White, HR manager with RSPCA NSW, a lot about resilience and compassion fatigue in the workplace.
Q: Tell us briefly about your role with RSPCA NSW.
Desleigh White: I’ve been with RSPCA NSW for seven and a half years. I manage the HR, volunteering, WHS and workers comp functions, as well as our network of volunteer branches across NSW. It’s the most chaotic, enjoyable role and I work with an amazing group of committed people.
Q: What are the challenges for people working in caring industries?
DW: Psychological health is a key issue, especially when things don’t work out. It can result in compassion fatigue. We accept every animal that comes in, no matter what the prognosis is.
Q: How do you address compassion fatigue?
DW: Compassion fatigue is a type of emotional burnout. Once someone is burnt out it’s difficult to help them recover while at work. So we try to prevent it and have developed a resilience program that has been shaped by staff feedback. The challenging part is talking with an employee about possibly moving on from RSPCA. Sometimes it is the best option for them, as well as for us.
Q: What has RSPCA taught you about building resilient teams?
DW: Resilience is so individual. For some, it’s about opportunities to talk, and for some it’s about time for themselves. We talk about resilience openly here, but we make a point to focus on things that are within our sphere of influence. The key is looking after yourself, first and foremost – and communication.
Q: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?
DW: I love working with passionate and caring people. The varied nature of my role is rewarding. One day I’ll be writing reports, the next I’m in rural NSW meeting with volunteers. And of course, I adore animals.
This article is an edited version. The original version appeared in the June 2016 issue of HRMonthly magazine as “Meet … Desleigh White.” AHRI members receive HRMonthly magazine 11 times a year. To learn more about membership options, click here.