Combating Compassion Fatigue

Nurses are multitaskers with numerous responsibilities, but most importantly is our obligation to excellent patient care. To accomplish this, nurses need to have a balanced healthy lifestyle. Numerous nurses experience compassion fatigue during their career, because they neglect their own self, to provide care for their patients. “Compassion fatigue is caused by empathy; it is the natural consequence from caring for and helping traumatized or suffering people,” resulting in stress and exhaustion (Bush, 2009).

This paper will examine compassion fatigues warning signs and there causes, strategies for coping, and the emotional, physical, and spiritual and needs of the nurse. It is vital that nurses know the concepts of compassion fatigue are capable for thwarting compassion fatigue and be conscious of the signs and symptoms. Many times nurses that have compassion fatigue are captivated with the pain and suffering, or illness of a patient they care for. Compassion fatigue is the physical, spiritual, and mental demise of a caregiver and is affected by it differently. Five of the concepts of compassion fatigue to be on the lookout for in co-workers and ourselves are emotional, cognitive, somatic, behavioral, and spiritual (Portnoy, 2011).

With emotional symptoms, one may have depression, experience sleeplessness; feelings of hopelessness, guilt, sadness, and in severe cases have suicidal thoughts. It is common for experienced nurses to feel numb or desensitized to the feelings that their patients are experiencing. Additional symptoms are mood swings, sensitivity, touchiness, agitation, nervousness, anger, and bitterness (Portnoy, 2011). Cognitively one can will also lose the ability focus and concentrate on the current task this leading to the nurse’s lack of ability to work. Team members start to notice your poor job

performance, which can be related to lack of motivation, frequent absences, and negative talk. COMBATING COMPASSION FATIGUE 3 Somatic means the emotional stress has turned into physical symptoms, for example headaches and migraines frequently related to stress, or nausea and unexplained abdominal pains. These complaints are real, but the cause of origin related to stress. You may have feelings of being physically exhausted even at the beginning of your day, you drag your feet, even after a long weekend you still go back to work physically weary.

Furthermore, some nurses may experience these other physical symptoms such as constipation, difficulty sleeping, chest pain, palpitations, and tachycardia (Portnoy, 2011). Some behavioral signs are the reliance on nicotine, alcohol, illicit drugs, or other sedatives to be able to unwind at the end of the day. Sometimes healthcare works experience anger and irritability, yelling at their own kids for not taking the trash out. Avoidance of patients by hiding around the corner, not answering their phones calls in a timely manner, and delaying treatment is another behavioral symptom (Portnoy, 2011).

Spiritually, one questions the meaning of their own life, may have lost a sense of purpose, feel prevalent hopelessness, they question their own religious beliefs, may even lose their faith and be skeptical (Portnoy, 2011). Compassion fatigue is an unspoken tragedy: if you cannot adequately take care of your patients due to compassion fatigue, then you cannot be there for your spouse, kids, family, or friends either. This is a no win situation for everyone, because you have allow yourself to become exhausted at work and that leads to unintended consequences.

Additionally, nurses are more apt to make medication errors while suffering with compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue can be triggered when nurses think that their actions would not make a difference for their patients, or they experience high census, heavy assignments, high acuities, or have personal issues, such as inexperience or inadequate energy. Other triggers include inexperience, when they COMBATING COMPASSION FATIGUE 4 had overlooked serious patient symptoms (Portnoy, 2011). Anyone can be affected with compassion fatigue; particularly if they are not equipped for, the emotional toll nursing can have on the body.

There is a cost to caring too much reduced job performance, loss of morale, absenteeism, suffering personal relationships, decline in health, irritability, and loss of faith (Raines, 2014). Compassion fatigue usually happens slowly over awhile and typically will affect nurses that continuously give and do not make time for themselves to be re-energized. For example, if you are the new nurse and are working in the oncology unit because you had a family member that had died from cancer and you want to make a difference in the lives of your patients.

You get emotionally involved with the patients and several of your patients died within several months, this can take an emotional and physical toll on you. Your manage and co-workers may notice that you are having trouble keeping up with the patient load, showing up to work late, and making medication errors. You try to cope with the help for your manager and team members, but ultimately you leave nursing (Bush, 2009). This is the nurse that did not take time to re-energize. There are various coping strategies used to ward against physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion that accompanies compassion fatigue.

If one coping strategy does not help you to feel invigorated then try another way to cope, everyone is different, some find techniques that work for them than others. A preference for techniques will depend on their culture, faith, and beliefs, since some are secular and other are faith based. There is method called basic mindfulness and focuses your attention on movement, physical sensation, and breathing. This technique develops mental aids that work with behavior, beliefs, and emotions, to promote resilience and emotional balance to battle against stress (Schoeberlein, 2012).

There are many things we can do to distract ourselves from work such as participating in church activities, COMBATING COMPASSION FATIGUE 5 reading books, praying or meditation, exercise, and spending time with your family and friends. Cutting hours to a minimum will protect against compassion fatigue, chart only necessary things, do not worry about punctuation or complete sentences, first care for yourself, exercise and get plenty of sleep, and do something fun (Drummond, 2012). Do not feel guilty while on vacation, because patients are suffering for an illness, other will take care of them while you are gone, you need to be re-energized to take of them when you get back from vacation.

Some ways that management can help is to create an open environment for nurses to express concerns, share the caseload among team members, make time for interaction with team members, such as social events and a retreat. Another thing that can be done is encouragement for healthy habits such as good nutrition, sleep, training for self-care, taking work breaks and lunches (Portnoy, 2011). Due to their compassion for people is why many people decide on nursing as a career.

If nurses are continually giving to others and do not take time to revitalize themselves they will be physically, spiritually, and emotionally drained. The caregiver needs to get plenty of sleep, eat well balanced meals, pursue outlets, and exercise. This helps the nurses to be well balanced and come to work ready to engage with and care for patients (Raines, 2013). Caregivers are highly vulnerable to getting compassion fatigue, due to our caring nature. Healthcare professionals need to make time to care for ourselves spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

If we become completely depleted physically, emotionally, and spiritually we will not be capable of providing effective care to our patients. Being a nurse make is a hazardous job that leaves us vulnerable to compassion fatigue, due to providing so much compassion and empathy towards our patients, family, and friends. Compassion fatigue can have devastating effect on our lives leading to job frustrations, high job turnovers, errors, and a decrease in productivity (Lombardo & Eyre, 2011). Patients deserve to have excellent patient care from a COMBATING COMPASSION FATIGUE 6 recharged nurse that is compassionate, loving, and empathetic.

This is why we need to take time for ourselves to be that nurse. COMBATING COMPASSION FATIGUE 7 References Bush, N. (2009). Compassion fatigue: are you at risk?. Oncology Nursing Forum, 36(1), 24-28. doi:10. 1188/09. ONF. 24-28 Drummond, D. (2012). Compassion fatigue is a call to action. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www. huffingtonpost. com/dike-drummond/compassion- fatigue_b_2267964. html Lombardo, B. , Eyre, C. (2011). Compassion fatigue: a nurses primer. American Nurses Association.

DOI: 10. 3912/OJIN. Vol16No01Man03 Portnoy, S. , (2011). Burnout and compassion Fatigue: Watch for the signs. Making it work at work. Retrieved from http://www. compassionfatigue. org/pages/healthprogress. pdf Raines, L. (2014). Overcoming compassion fatigue. Atlanta Journal Constitution . Retrieved from http://www. ajc. com/news/business/overcoming-compassion-fatigue/nWsrr/ Schoeberlein, D. (2012). RX for compassion fatigue. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www. huffingtonpost. com/deborah-schoeberlein/compassion- fatigue_b_2258322. html.

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