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


June 18, 25, and July 2, and 9, 2020, 11:30 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.EASTERN


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 to 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 online four-part series 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 and the Center for Bioethics and Health Law at the University of Pittsburgh. 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:

  • Increase knowledge of how professional caregiving and compassion fatigue may affect the physical body. 
  • Develop deeper understanding of the physiological processes associated with caregiving.  
  • Explore the connections between effective caregiving for others and care for one's own needs.
  • Begin developing strategies to address compassion fatigue/burnout and improve practices of self-care.
  • Practice five 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.


Leanna Fuller is associate professor of pastoral care at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.), Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div.), and Furman University (B.A.). 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 2018-2019 Convocation of Christian Leaders program sponsored by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, as well as the 2016-2017 Wabash Center Workshop for Early Career Theological School Faculty. Fuller’s most recent conference paper, “One Body, Many Parts: An Ecclesiology for Churches in Conflict” wa,s presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. Dr. Fuller has professional experience in both congregational ministry and chaplaincy, and her primary research areas include conflict in faith communities, group dynamics in congregations, and clergy self-care. 

Matthew F. Muldoon is a board-certified internist who has long directed the Hypertension Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, while also serving as a primary care provider at the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System. He is the founding director of the Heart and Vascular Institute’s Hypertension Center, which serves as a regional referral center for severe, secondary, and otherwise problematic blood pressure disorders. Dr. Muldoon, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, conducts clinical research examining the interface of behavioral and biological risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular risk conveyed by hypertension, lipid disorders, insulin resistance, and pre-clinical atherosclerosis are studied in relation to individual differences health behaviors (diet and exercise), cognition (attention, working memory, executive function, and impulsivity), and in mood (depression and anxiety).

Donna M. Posluszny is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, at the University of Pittsburgh and Associate Director of Training, Biobehavioral Cancer Control Program at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.  She has been a clinical psychologist at the Hillman Cancer Center for over 15 years, working with cancer patients and their families. She is board-certified in clinical health psychology and has worked in both outpatient and inpatient medical hospital settings. She has supervised many clinical trainees at all levels. Her clinical work and research focuses on psychosocial adjustment to cancer, particularly hematologic cancer and disease, in both patient and family caregiver populations, with a specialization in hematopoietic cell transplantation.

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 deadline: June 17, 2020

Registration for this event is required but is free to all participants except for those requesting CEUs for licensure. We do not want anyone to be unable to participate in this program, however, if you are able to submit a registration fee, there are suggested amounts of $25 and $50 available upon checkout. We will use all collected funds to underwrite future programs like this.

To register for:

  • FREE, submit the promotion code CF100 at checkout.
  • $25, submit the promotion code CF50 at checkout.
  • $50, enter no code at checkout.

CEs for licensed professionals: $10



This online event will be a four-part series held via ZOOM. Details about the ZOOM link will be provided by mid-June.

CEUs and CEs

0.6 CEUs will be available upon request for clergy and laity. 6.0 CEs will be available for licensed social workers, marriage/family therapists, and professional counselors for an additional $10 when selected during registration process.

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. If you are a nurse, CRC, MD, psychologist, or other professional who gets continuing education credits other than the ones listed above and would like credits for this event, please check with your board as to whether they will accept these credits. PPI is happy to provide you with a CE certificate, but its validity will depend on your board’s approval. 

Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6727. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs. These programs are being offered for 6.0 NBCC continuing education clock hours.


E-mail ConEd@pts.edu or call 412-924-1345.