Combating Compassion Fatigue
Grand Canyon University HLT-310V
February 24, 2012
Combating Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is an exhaustion that affects people who meet and accompany patients or attend to people whose history is marked by suffering. Listening day after day to dramatic stories tends to exhaust vital energy of a human being and also causes physical, psychological and emotional disturbance (Reese, 2009). Compassion fatigue affects people who frequently listen to the stories of individuals who have experienced difficult situations or traumatic experiences. Compassion fatigue generally afflicts therapists, medical personnel, human resource officers, social workers, teachers and individuals who attend to patients with disability (Orosco, 2011). The paper discusses various aspects of caregiver compassion and identifies warning signs for the condition, the nature of the problems and their causes. Physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the caregiver are also evaluated to identify coping strategies and resources to help the caregiver. Discussion
Compassion fatigue is most frequently reported amongst nurses, doctors and other frontline care providers in direct interaction with patients. This condition significantly effects these professionals’ interaction with patients, with families of patients and even with other health workers. In extreme cases, problems in interaction with own family has been reported according to Reese (2009). Reese (2009) further states there is an increasingly awareness of the profound emotional disturbances that occur in health care providers when they witness the pain and suffering of the patients in the face of an incurable disease such as cancer. Care providers are often partners in the journey of the patients they are attending. At present, an understanding of the effects of the treatment of terminally ill on the caregiver is limited. The first sign of compassion fatigue is a feeling of helplessness. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines helplessness as lacking protection or support, marked by an inability to act or react (Merriam-webster.com). Blacklock (2012) states people who are attracted to careers in health may be more likely to develop compassion fatigue based on their empathetic personalities. The second factor which increases the likelihood of the healthcare worker or attendant developing compassion fatigue is attending to a patient with a terminal condition (Pines, 2001). In fact, the term compassion fatigue was coined to describe a syndrome experienced by support health care staff facing dire consequences because of their disease. Beyond empathy, it effects the nurse, doctor or other member of the healthcare team in a way that he or she often develops a certain distance from the patient as a means of self-protection (Pines, 2001). The brain tends to isolate the incidents in order to keep the health care worker from mentally breaking down. Signs of compassion fatigue include chronic fatigue and irritability, lack of joy in life, engaging in behaviors that are fine in moderation, such as drinking or drug use, at a level of destruction. Similar to individuals who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), those with compassion fatigue often re-experience the death of their patients. Compassion fatigue can lead individuals suffering from loss of compassion, cynicism, boredom, decreased productivity and comparatively greater number of sick days. Since this order may be confused with many other issues, many people surrounding the worker suffering from this condition do not recognize what is causing the change in behavior of the person. Observed among psychologists, social workers or nurses, symptoms of compassion fatigue are still poorly documented among physicians. The affliction has been most frequently found among professionals working in environments where social conditions are most difficult for the patient to manage (Orosco, 2011). For...
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