Impostor Syndrome and Compassion Fatigue among postgraduate allied health students: a pilot study




burnout, secondary traumatic stress, professional education, mental health


Aim: This study explored the prevalence of compassion fatigue and impostor syndrome risk in Australian university students in two allied health disciplines.

Methods: In July 2018, anonymous surveys were collected from 72 graduate allied health students (76.4% female, 50% aged under 25 years old). The Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) scale was used to measure compassion fatigue, with participant scores categorised into “not at risk”, “low to average risk” or “high risk” using the cut-offs outlined in the ProQOL manual. The Young Impostor Scale (YIS) was used to screen for the presence of imposter syndrome.

Results: More than a third of respondents (37.5%) had symptoms of impostor syndrome, and 15.3% were at risk for compassion fatigue. Presence of compassion fatigue and/ or imposter syndrome was analysed across age range, gender, living arrangement and student status (domestic or international), revealing females were more likely to screen positive for imposter syndrome (45.5%) than males (11.8%). Results from the ProQOL and YIS were combined to identify 57% of participants to be at risk of one or both of these potentially detrimental states.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest the importance of prioritising imposter syndrome and compassion fatigue in future student mental health research. Specifically, attention should include a critical evaluation of the assessment measures and approaches available. Longitudinal monitoring of imposter syndrome and its interplay with other conditions, such as compassion fatigue, across allied health professions would be valuable in developing a theoretical framework to support interventional studies.

Author Biographies

Dunay Schmulian, The University of Queensland


Discipline of Audiology

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Wendy Redgen, The University of Queensland

Postgraduate student

Discipline of Audiology

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Jenny Fleming, The University of Queensland

Professor and Head
Discipline of Occupational Therapy
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


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How to Cite

Schmulian, D., Redgen, W., & Fleming, J. (2020). Impostor Syndrome and Compassion Fatigue among postgraduate allied health students: a pilot study. Focus on Health Professional Education: A Multi-Professional Journal, 21(3), 1–14.