The story of my evolution as a practice-based collaborative researcher is a story that comes full circle. Through exploring my own experiences of compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma as a hospital-based social worker, I am able to investigate the phenomenon across the profession and provide a critique of the needs of practitioners working in the complex environment of hospitals and health care. Parallel to this is an investigation into the need for practice research in this complex environment and in the profession overall as seen through the lens of a collaborative research partnership with social work hospital colleagues that transformed my approach to research. I have drawn on personal narrative, autoethnography and reflexive processing to investigate my own impact on and from this research. I conclude with an understanding of the power of storytelling in participatory action research and in the potential in collaborative research methodologies for authentic reciprocity and relationship to traverse the practice-research divide.