Combatting Compassion Fatigue

Topics: Health care, Psychology, Emotion Pages: 5 (1422 words) Published: February 12, 2013
Combating Compassion Fatigue

Grand Canyon University
Spirituality in Health Care

Combating Compassion Fatigue
According to Van der Cingal, 2009, compassion signifies “an acknowledgement of another’s suffering and is accompanied by the expression of a desire to ease or end that suffering”. Persons in the health care industry are known for their compassion and which is what usually draws them to this profession. Nurses work in a stressful environment that is continually demanding, both physically and mentally. With many highs and lows throughout just one shift, health care workers can be left with challenging emotions. Throughout their career, these difficult feelings and stressful demands can lead to compassion fatigue. Compassion Fatigue represents the collective emotional, psychological, and physical result of exposure to traumatic events when assisting others, while combined with everyday life stressors (ABA, 2011). This paper will discuss five concepts with warning signs of compassion fatigue. Exploration of the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of caregivers will be addressed, along with coping strategies and resources useful for the health care worker. Five Concepts of Compassion Fatigue

Though there are many concepts of compassion fatigue, this paper will discuss five major concepts that will include:
Physical Exhaustion
Emotional Exhaustion
Compulsive Behavior

Physical Exhaustion
Health care workers are notorious for not taking care of their physical and nutritional needs. To maintain health, plenty of rest, proper nutrition, and daily exercise are basic needs for a healthful balance. When any of these needs are compromised over a period of time, the personnel will not only physically, but mentally suffer also. The body requires at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night and eventually physical exhaustion will set in. The most common symptoms include insomnia (not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep), irritability and short tempered, heart palpitations and chest pain. If not treated, physical exhaustion can lead to more physical impairments including visual disturbances, headaches and/or migraines, chronic pain, dizziness, decreased immune system, and digestive dysfunction (Espeland, 2006). Emotional Exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion is the depletion of a person’s emotional reserve and inability to reestablish their emotional stability (Moore, 2009). Daily life is hectic and holds increased stress beyond work with the needs of family, sometimes additional school or continuing education. In addition to family or personal demands, the additional demands in nursing with caring for overwhelmingly sick individuals, along with other job stressors including productivity, staffing issues, and meeting goals becomes burdensome as well. Nursing is a very emotionally demanding career with the need to bond with the family and patient on a certain level, and still be able to maintain neutral lines with professionalism. Given all the above scenarios, emotional exhaustion is rampant among nurses. Emotional exhaustion is manifested in different ways from person to person. Some symptoms most noted are labile emotions such as crying, sudden outbursts whether crying or anger/hostility, or even showing no emotions at all. Paranoia can also develop with the caregiver having difficulties working within a team-approach (Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, 2012). Apathy

Apathy is the lack of concern or interest in something that once was uplifting, or the lack of feelings or emotions (Apathy, 2012). This usually comes after emotional exhaustion. When the emotional reserves are void, he caregiver who once was a doting and passionate team member can change to reflect apathy, uncaring, or indifferent. Psychologically, a caregiver can become emotionally drained (exhausted) and become robotic in their actions, similar to being void of all feelings or numb to emotions....
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