Combating Compassion Fatigue
According to an article in USA Today, one of every five graduate nurses will quit their jobs or leave the nursing profession within the first year (Madkour, 2009). Within the first four years of the nursing profession, 20% change careers. Hospitals and nursing programs study this issue extensively targeting the degree of educational preparation as a probable cause of attrition. Is inadequate preparation the culprit or could it be new nurses are suffering from compassion fatigue? Exploring the meaning of compassion fatigue may provide answers to these questions. This paper will describe warning signs and causes of five concepts of compassion fatigue and explain the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of caregivers and coping strategies needed to avoid compassion fatigue. Concepts of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is a term used to identify a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical distress (Sammartino, 2012). Compassion fatigue was first conceptualized in 1992 as a result of research involving burnout (Coetzee & Klopper, 2011). Concepts related to compassion fatigue describe levels of emotional engagement of healthcare workers and symptoms of each level or type. The concepts of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout and loss of self will now be discussed in detail. Compassion Satisfaction
Compassion satisfaction is a feeling of pleasure or happiness one feels from being able to do your work well, a sense of accomplishment (Alkema, Linton, & Davies, 2008). A stressful situation may require a higher level of motivation to face obstacles and challenges. Being able to perform well in these situations may lead to personal satisfaction. Compassion satisfaction results from the healthcare worker’s ability to “make a difference” and positively influence patient outcomes. Providers with compassion satisfaction have a positive attitude, seek social outlets and are generally healthy and balanced. An important predictor of compassion satisfaction is the ability to see patients improve clinically as a result of care provided. When no improvement is seen, compassion fatigue may result. Compassion Fatigue
The term ‘compassion fatigue’ refers to physical, emotional and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients with substantial emotional pain and physical suffering (Sammartino, 2012). The literature reviewed contains conflicting views as to whether compassion fatigue is a form of secondary trauma. Both concepts are similar in cause and effect on the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual well being of the individual. Compassion fatigue results from constant provision of empathy and compassion and being subjected to traumatic events involving out patients. Healthcare workers do not always possess the ability to detach themselves in these situations.
Fear, sadness, insomnia, nightmares and feelings of guilt are all symptoms of compassion fatigue. Traumatic experiences may be relived over and over and affect the caregivers level of concentration. In an effort to cope, the individual may seek to avoid similar situations and become detached. Beliefs and expectations may change based on experience. Those who suffer from compassion fatigue are unable to maintain a healthy balance between empathy and objectivity. Individuals with a high level of compassion hold the greatest risk of developing compassion fatigue.
Vicarious traumatization is the term given to the psychological distress experienced by healthcare professionals in their work with patients who are suffering or who have been traumatized (Sabo, 2011). Empathy and caring are two of the main elements leading to vicarious traumatization but other personal factors come into play. If the caregiver...