Compassion Fatigue

The idea of caring for others is the motivating reason that draws most people into nursing. The concept of being a supportive part of a person’s health care needs is exactly the cause of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue can hit the best of nurses. Nurses who are highly driven and detail oriented are at a higher risk for developing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue was a term first applied in 1992; it is described as a syndrome that occurs in nurses when caring for a patient facing life-altering or life-threatening changes resulting from an illness.

Compassion fatigue is prevalent among nurses today, due to increasing patient loads, as a result of nurse shortages and hospital cut backs. Compassion fatigue in nursing should not be ignored. There are classic warning signs that someone might be experiencing compassion fatigue. Recognizing the signs of compassion fatigue and following the necessary steps to prevent and treat it can provide one with the tools needed to make their nursing career rewarding.

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Warning signs of five concepts of compassion fatigue

An essential first step in developing a prevention plan is to recognize the warning signs of compassion fatigue. Learning to become aware of the problem is the first step in prevention. Compassion fatigue cuts you off from the people that need you the most. Warning signs of compassion fatigue can include cognitive, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, and somatic symptoms (Portnoy, D. 2011). Cognitive

Nature of the Problems and their Causes
Cognitive behavior is the ability to judge and reason effectively and having a perception of your surroundings.

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Cognitive symptoms can include a decreased sense of personal satisfaction and personal accomplishments. A feeling of indifference or apathetic with ones patients is another sign. A sense of disorientation with lowered levels of concentration can also be seen during this phase. Emotional

Nature of the Problems and their Causes
Our emotions are a valuable source upon which we can rely on. Our emotions help us make decisions, and communicate with our patients. When experiencing compassion fatigue our emotional health suffers. Emotional signs that one might be experiencing compassion fatigue could include powerlessness, anxiety, guilt, anger, numbness, fear, helplessness, sadness, depression, shock, blunted or enhanced affect (Portnoy, D., 2011). Behavioral

Nature of the Problems and their Causes
Behavior is simply the way we react to a given situation. In regards to nursing, behavior is the skills and ability to care for our patients. Behavioral symptoms of compassion fatigue usually manifest in behaviors that are out of the ordinary for the person. Some examples might include irritability, being withdrawn from family, friends and co-workers, moody, appetite changes, unable to get adequate sleep, and isolating one’s self (Portnoy, D., 2011). Spiritual

Nature of the Problems and their Causes
Spirituality can be described as a person’s way of being, thinking, choosing, and acting in the world in light of that person’s ultimate values(Barlow, 2006). Spiritual compassion fatigue can cause a person to question the meaning of life, or experience feelings of hopelessness. They might also question their relationship with God, or their religious belief system. Often times they will stop attending the church that they once faithfully attended. Somatic

Nature of the Problems and their Causes
The somatic system deals with our bodies. The somatic system is responsible for nearly all voluntary muscle movement as well as for processing sensory information. When compassion fatigue affects our somatic system we can experience physical symptoms such as, sweating, rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, aches and pains. Frequent headaches and colds can also develop
during this phase (Portnoy, D., 2011).

Physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the caregiver
Examining the progression of compassion fatigue and its symptoms, one thing is important to understand, compassion fatigue can have a major impact on a nurses professional career. It is easy to see that some of the symptoms can impair the ability of the nurse to provide quality nursing care to their patients. The best defense against compassion fatigue is for healthcare workers to take a proactive approach to their physical, emotional, and spiritual care. Physical needs of Caregiver

The first step in the providing for the needs of caregiver is for the caregiver to recognize the symptoms of compassion fatigue. Healthcare workers should develop an improved sense of self-care. Healthcare workers, nurses in general spend their professional life taking care of others. Nurses should take care of their selves first. They need to develop a healthier lifestyle, by getting regular sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

Emotional needs of Caregiver
Nurses who are young, idealistic, and highly motivated tend to suffer from compassion fatigue at a higher risk (Bush, N., 2009). Talking to friends, peers, and family to gain ideas on how to better balance your job responsibilities with your personal life is one area of focus for the healthcare worker. Learning to set boundaries in the early stages of your career can be a valuable tool.

Recognizing your limitations is important; you cannot stop all the suffering and pain of all your patients. Learning that you can be there to help your patients without needing to fix everything can lessen the emotional toll that dealing with difficult situations presents. Spiritual needs of Caregiver

Caregivers need to prepare their minds, bodies, souls, and spirits to become resilient in working with patient at intense levels (Bush, N., 2009). Caregivers need to develop skills of empathy when dealing with patients. A positive belief system and attitude can prevent feelings of hopelessness. Caregivers should recharge their selves by making a list of enjoyable things that they find pleasure in. Remembering how inspired and motived they felt during those early days after graduation can help to refocus their thoughts in a more positive manner. Coping strategies and resources

Applying a systemic approach to the prevention of compassion fatigue can provide the healthcare worker with valuable tools in the prevention of compassion fatigue. Awareness of what situations contribute to your stress level, what events cause an increase in your stress. Develop a health balance in your life. Provide yourself the opportunity to enjoy your favorite activities on regular bases. Learn to connect with friends, co-workers, and family to develop a positive support system in order to talk out your stress by sharing your thoughts and reactions to certain situations. Conclusion

Realizing that you have control over how you manage your life. Being compassionate is not a character flaw; on the contrary, it is a great gift. The healthcare profession is a very demanding career. The ability to serve others is one of the highest callings that a person can have, but in order to do this effectively you must first take care of yourself.

Understanding the key symptoms of compassion fatigue will allow for caregivers to put into place the necessary tools in order to prevent compassion fatigue. Engaging in self-care strategies will be beneficial for healthcare workers in order to handle to day to day stressors of their profession. References

barlow828. (Nov 28, ’11). Spirituality in Nursing. Retrieved Sunday, Sep 01, 2013, from

Bush, N. (2009). Compassion fatigue: are you at risk?. Oncology Nursing Forum, 36(1), 24-28. doi:10.1188/09.ONF.24-28
Gilmore, C. (2012). Compassion fatigue — what it is and how to avoid it. Kai Tiaki Nursing New
Zealand, 18(5), 32.
Portnoy, D. (2011). Burnout and Compassion Fatigue: Watch for the Signs. Health Progress. Retrieved from

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Compassion Fatigue. (2016, May 15). Retrieved from

Compassion Fatigue

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