Concept Analysis: Compassion Fatigue

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Compassion Fatigue: A Concept Analysis

A Paper Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for NU 506 Theoretical Foundations of

The practice of nursing is synonymous with the concepts of empathy, compassion, nurturing, and caring. In the last two decades, a global nursing shortage has developed, leading to a phenomenon in nursing never seen before; the delivery of nursing care without nurturing. Increased workloads, higher patient acuity, deficient resources, and inadequate support systems, have all contributed to the decreased job satisfaction that has left nurses unable to display the compassion that was once a unique quality of nurses (Hooper, Craig, Janvrin, Wetsel, &


Reimels, 2010). The identification of Comapassion Fatigue (CF) resulting in numerous research studies and work to define the concept. The following analysis will define the concept of CF, explain the unique attributes of the concept through a literature review of current nursing research, and provide models to further demonstrate examples of compassion fatigue The Significance of Compassion Fatigue High levels of patient satisfaction are result from high quality compassionate nursing care; a level of care that can only be delivered in the presence of adequate staffing levels, resources, and supportive personnel (Halm, et al, 2008). Unfortunately, the current American health care industry’s focus on profits over patients, creates hospitals that act like business’ more than sanctuaries of healing, resulting in low patient satisfaction and low job satisfaction of practicing nurses (Austin, Goble, Leier, & Burne, 2009). Nurses account for the largest percentage of healthcare professional within the acute care setting, provide the most direct patient care, and have the power to significantly improve patient outcomes. With resources stretched to the limits, nurses have been forced to reduce the holistic care that has been a pillar of nursing, to providing basic medical care without the emotional support and nurturing that are also essential (Garretson, 2004). Compassion satisfaction is defined as the feeling of accomplishment that is gained by providing the emotional support a patient needs to heal. When nurses are devoid of the emotional energy to give compassionate care the result is compassion fatigue results (Bush, 2009). Defining the Concept The term CF, first identified by in 1992, when nurses, who worked in an Emergency Room, were noted to have lost their ability to nurture (Knobloch-Coetzee & Klopper, 2010). The concept of CF was originally labeled as burnout, defined as a form of mental distress seen in individual exhibiting poor work performance, negative attitudes (Kearney, et al. 2009). The

Running head: COMPASSION FATIGUE identified behaviors were then labeled Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD), similar to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) in that there is an existence of psychosocial and emotional responses within a person secondary to a traumatic event. In STS, the emotional responses stem from indirectly assisting someone else through an event (Figley, 2004). The


concept was eventually labeled CF, still referred to STSD at times, and the subject of many multi disciplinary research studies, to ascertain the full depth of the phenomenon (Helm, 2010). A review of the literature using CINHAL, OVID, & Medline, including the terms, compassion, fatigue, burnout, nursing, and stress, indicated that CF is not unique to nurses. Several studies focusing on paramedics, social workers, military personal, physicians, and news reporters, all came to the common conclusion; anyone who works in close contact with people who suffer, may develop signs and symptoms of CF (Hooper, et al., 2010). The majority of the studies including nurses as the primary participants, were focused on specific care areas, e.g. hospice and chronically ill pediatric patients, ER and work related...
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