Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue, or burnout, is something that all nurses experience and go through during their nursing career. It’s something that can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed of. There are many times in your career that this may happen to you. Knowing the signs of compassion fatigue and different ways to cope with this can help you overcome this difficult time in your life. The intent of this paper is to identify the common signs of compassion fatigue and also some things that you can do if your life to change and make things easier on you and get you back to where you were before this occurred to you.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can occur from seven different domains. These domains include: cognitive, emotional, behavioral, personal relations, somatic, work performance and spiritual (Bush, 2009). Cognitive symptoms of compassion fatigue can range from decreased concentration, low self-esteem, and apathy (Bush, 2009). Cognitive symptoms may be difficult for others to detect depending on the person and only the individual that’s experiencing these symptoms may notice any changes (Bush, 2009). Another domain of compassion fatigue is from emotional symptoms.

Emotional symptoms will present increased feeling of anxiety, guilt, anger, and feeling of being powerless or helpless (Bush, 2009). You won’t feel like yourself and will be easily irritated by things that you before could handle without exhibiting any of the previously listed symptoms. Behavioral symptoms include irritability, moodiness, appetite changes, and sleep disturbances (Bush, 2009). With any of these symptoms, relationships can start to suffer. These may be relationships with your significant other, family, friends, and even coworkers.

Without proper interventions, these relationships could even be permanently damaged due to this compassion fatigue. Somatic symptoms include general aches and pain to an impaired immunity (Bush, 2009). All of these symptoms can have negative effects on your work performance. Work performance symptoms would include exhaustion, low motivation, being absent from work, and detachment or apathy (Bush, 2009). Spiritually, the nurse may begin to start questioning the meaning of life (Bush, 2009). They may even start to question their belief system, values, and commitment that provide emotional trust and safety (Bush, 2009).

A person may exhibit symptoms from one of the domains or even a combination or a few of them. Depending on how many symptoms that one may exhibit, depends on how long it may take to recover from this (Bush, 2009). Compassion fatigue is an emotional state with negative psychological and physical consequences that happen after prolonged caregiving of people suffering from trauma or misfortune (Bush, 2009). Compassion fatigue occurs when the caregiver unknowingly takes in all of the stress, anxiety and fears that the patients the caregiver is taking care of and comes to a point where they can no longer take anymore distress in their life.

They lose their balance between their work and personal life and they all become one. This makes the caregiver lose that balance and they begin to exhibit signs of compassion fatigue. Exposure to chronic stress levels can cause the caregiver to use ineffective coping mechanisms and start to self-medicate (Bush, 2009). Some of these self-medication ways may include alcohol use, substance abuse, risky behaviors, isolation or withdrawal (Bush, 2009). One intervention that you can do is stay physically healthy.

Some things that you can do to obtain this is by exercising regularly, eating healthy, and getting proper rest each night (Chapman, 2007). When you are exercising, eating healthy, and getting lots of sleep your body and mind feel better and more energetic than when you don’t do any of these things. Spiritually, you should come up with a ritual that you do each day to stay spiritually healthy. Taking time out of your day pray and focus on God can help you out spiritually (Chapman, 2007).

Emotionally, you should take time to laugh or even time to have some space to yourself to get back to being spiritually healthy (Chapman, 2007). One intervention that you can use as the caregiver to help overcome compassion fatigue is through assertiveness. This means that you would not give into threats or manipulation when relating to others, and not allowing yourself to be threatened, abused, or manipulated (Espeland, 2006). Another thing that you can do is by setting boundaries. Having the courage to say “no” can help you when you are setting your boundaries (Espeland, 2006).

When you take on too much all at once you can get overwhelmed easily and fall into compassion fatigue. Setting boundaries can help you from getting to that point. Changing your thought processes can also help. Negative thinkers have a can’t do attitude whereas positive thinkers have a can do attitude. You can also use this by reassuring yourself with positive thoughts. Instead of saying that you can’t do something, tell yourself that you can handle it and you will have a better chance of succeeding. Seeking support from others can also help you with compassion fatigue (Bush, 2009).

Doing this on your own can be difficult; especially when you don’t know which route to take when you are overwhelmed and stressed out. You need to be able to find some close individuals in your life that you trust. Confide in these people for advice and support. These people may be a family member, a close friend, coworker, or even your church spiritual leader. You could even use a combination of all of these people that are in your life. You need to know that you are not alone in your life and there are people in your life that are waiting to help you out when you need it the most.

Everyone has their own way of coping with compassion fatigue. Using a combination of different techniques and interventions can help you find what works best for you. Not everyone can cope with compassion fatigue in the same way. We are all different and unique individuals and need to find are own way for dealing with these issues. In conclusion, compassion fatigue is something happens to everyone during their career as a nurse. There are many different signs and symptoms that you should be aware of.

This will help you recognize compassion fatigue in not only yourself but also in others around you. Staying physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy can help you either avoid experiencing compassion fatigue or help you cope with it. Keeping that balance in your life is important. You also need to find coping mechanisms that work best for you. There are many different ways that you can cope with compassion fatigue. What works well for one person may not have any effect on you. In then end you need to do what’s best for you and stick with that in order to restore the balance in your life.

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