What is compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing?

A stressful and negative work environment causes burnout, while the impact of caring for others causes compassionate fatigue. The beginning also separates the two conditions. Compassion fatigue can occur right after a nurse experiences secondary trauma while working in Home Care in Melrose Park IL. Burnout usually develops over time as work stress builds up. Compassion fatigue and burnout, if left untreated, can lead to emotional trauma, depression, and long-term suicide in healthcare providers.

32 Therefore, compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress should be treated as work injuries or work-related injuries. 16, 30 Nurse leaders must first attempt to mitigate the effects of compassion fatigue and burnout on employees by using approaches and strategies such as those listed earlier in the study , 30 If they cannot mitigate, mental health in the workplace resources such as employee assistance programs should be instituted as soon as possible, 30. Some symptoms of exhaustion and compassion fatigue are similar. However, distinguishing factors include the onset of symptoms and the effect on caregiver function.

In the case of exhaustion, the onset is more progressive and can cause indifference, disconnection and alienation from patients and the work environment. Compassionate fatigue may have a more acute onset and may precipitate excessive participation in patient care (Anewalt, 200). In 1995, Figley remarked that the presence of exhaustion could increase the likelihood of developing compassion fatigue. When previous traumas are combined with current stressors in the workplace, nurses are at risk of experiencing compassionate fatigue and exhaustion, and the quality of care for patients is affected.

Compassion fatigue has also been observed in supportive professionals whose personal identity is closely related to their professional role. In nursing, compassion fatigue means that a nurse has gradually become less compassionate with respect to the medical challenges their patients face. Nurses bear the most the cost of care: “compassion fatigue” quickly becomes a healthcare provider's worst nightmare. We have helped nurses overcome compassion fatigue by strengthening their interpersonal and communication skills, guiding them through the self-evaluation process to better understand the stressors that contribute to their compassion fatigue, and helping them to develop their own recovery plans.

If you or a nurse you know suffer from compassionate fatigue, you can take comfort in knowing that it's a treatable and manageable condition. This fatigue can affect nurses in any specialty when, in the process of providing empathic support, they personally experience the pain of their patients and family members. However, empathetic and caring nurses can become victims of the ongoing stress of meeting the often overwhelming needs of patients and their families, leading to compassionate fatigue. For some of the people who suffer from compassion fatigue, it also translates into an inability to empathize with their co-workers and loved ones.

People who suffer from compassion fatigue tend to experience intense physical and emotional exhaustion, along with major changes in their ability to empathize with the patients they treat. According to Tend Academy, compassion fatigue differs from indirect trauma in that the latter “was coined by Pearlman and Saakvitne (199) to describe the profound change in worldview that occurs when helping professionals when working with clients who have suffered trauma. Compassion fatigue develops when rescue and care strategies are unsuccessful, causing feelings of distress and guilt in the caregiver. Allowing caregivers to reduce compassion fatigue benefits not only individual caregivers, but also the institutions in which these caregivers work.

In the same way, this same self-awareness on the part of nurse leaders will help recognize the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and exhaustion in staff members and other leaders, allowing for early intervention, the provision of resources and increased support. From an organizational point of view, it is imperative to make it clear and that all departments know that compassion fatigue in nursing it's real. The recognition of my own self-care deficit and the imbalance between work and personal life has served as a barometer to control my compassion fatigue.

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