Three Strategies for Dealing with Compassion Fatigue
by, 02-24-2011 at 06:35 AM (6990 Views)
As a member of the nurse leader team at Gannett Healthcare Group, I have an opportunity to talk with nurses across the country. Recently, I have noticed our conversations turning to the issue of compassion fatigue.
I find that nurses are anxious to share their feelings, frustrations, and fears as it relates to this topic. However, one important concept that I have learned is that burnout is often confused with compassion fatigue.
Although the symptoms can be similar, such as anger, sadness, despair, and hopelessness, there are clear differences. Burnout is generally related to organizational situations and is believed to occur as a result of an individual not being correctly matched to the right job position. In comparison, compassion fatigue, according to Deborah Boyle, an oncology clinical nurse specialist and consultant in Phoenix, who has explored this notion among oncology nurses, occurs when nurses are not able to find a balance between empathy and objectivity. Left unaddressed, it can lead to physical and psychological consequences.
However, more research is being done in this area and new strategies to manage compassion fatigue are being discussed. In a recent blog post, Dr. Nikore raised the idea of a 3-month sabbatical as a unique way to refocus the turmoil of this emotional stress.
Short of obtaining a paid sabbatical, there are other steps nurses can take to manage compassion fatigue. For example, many facilities offer employee assistance programs and counseling services that are available to help nurses address compassion fatigue. In addition, nurse support groups provide an opportunity to share feelings. Finally, nurses must ensure they replenish their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Finally, a key to successfully coping with compassion fatigue is to remember that you are not alone.