11 Mar Compassion Fatigue in Nursing, Compassion Fatigue and Stress and How to Be a Successful Care-Giver
Compassion fatigue affects care-givers, professionals, and individuals who care for and take care of clients or family members with serious injuries on a regular basis.
Compassion Fatigue studies initially began with examining burnout in nurses. The medical journal database, medscape.com published an article by Dr. Marilyn W. Edmunds, entitled “Caring Too Much: Compassion Fatigue in Nursing” in November 2010. The article discussed the effects of traumatic events on both the individuals who experienced said event and those who help the individual through the event. Dr. Edmunds describes compassion fatigue as “the emotional effect of being indirectly traumatized by helping someone who has experienced primary traumatic stress”. The discussion goes on to say that nurses may react by “turning off” their own feelings or experiencing helplessness or anger. A study was conducted amongst nurses and results showed the following:
- Compassion satisfaction was significantly higher in intensive care unit nurses vs. emergency department nurses.
- Nurses who had higher compassion satisfaction scores were more interpersonally fulfilled (demonstrated by their scores on items labelled “being happy”, “being me”, “being connected to others”).
- These nurses were less likely to feel exhausted or “on the edge”.
- Coping strategies included requesting help from other nurses and taking extra days off.
Well, we know that compassion fatigue affects those that care. Those that care are eager to help and become frustrated when they can’t help, or perhaps feel helpless. Dr. Edmund’s research also notes that compassion fatigue in nurses is triggered by:
- The belief that an individual’s actions would not make a difference, or never seems to be enough.
- Heavy patient load or an overburdened system.
- Personal issues such as inexperience or inadequate energy.
- Personal identification with patients.
Care. It is the foundation of nursing. And it is the foundation of a lot of professions. The reality is, whatever your role or position is, there are some things we can’t change. As hard as it is to accept, we can’t change it. There are many professions where compassion fatigue can be present. Aside from those who see frontline trauma, psychologists and psychiatrists, lawyers and family doctors too can experience symptoms of compassion fatigue. Studies have shown that psychiatrists in particular, truly suffer from compassion fatigue and depression. After all, what can you do with all the information you hear? Nurses, doctors, social workers see the injuries and provide the care up front and really experience the visual impact of the trauma as well as the emotional effects. Other professionals to a degree still face similar risk factors for burnout. Everyone has their limits. We have to help each other, without overstepping one another’s boundaries. Here are some helpful tips for how to be a successful Care-Giver:
- Set Personal Limits: Learn when, and how to say NO: Compassion fatigue occurs when one oversteps his/her personal limits. Start with one “No” a day. Let “No” become your power word.
- Self Care: Stop running on adrenaline. Respect yourself and know when to ask for help. It’s okay to put yourself first, if you nurture yourself, you will gain back your strength and your capacity to be a caregiver.
- Set up a Network: Be social at work. Enhance your social support and social network by creating a work community. Aim for a minimum of 15 minutes a day of interpersonal interaction with other staff.
- Earn your own Respect: Focus less on the need for approval and validation from others: The only one you should worry about pleasing is yourself.
- Avoid become an Emotional Sponge: Listen, but don’t absorb every one else’s emotions and feelings: Your mind belongs to you and you alone.
- Avoid being “slimed”: Take negative information you receive and consider it ‘slime’; something you wish to get rid of.
- Pace yourself: Give yourself permission to have breaks and to enjoy leisure time. You are the boss of yourself. Be true to yourself!
Don’t self-deprecate, self-appreciate! There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life – reciprocity. ~Confucius