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Healthcare Burnout

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Dealing with Compassion Fatigue
Being a nurse is the best, most rewarding career in existence! I thank God every day that I have found my passion in life. However, it is equally the most physically and mentally draining job there is. At the end of a twelve hour day, there is often times nothing left for myself or my family. Compassion fatigue is a real challenge that plagues all nurses. No one is invincible. Combining the stresses of life at home with the stresses of simply being a nurse, this fatigue can be severe and debilitating. Knowing how to recognize the warning signs of compassion fatigue and being aware of the potential causes will help one cope. Also knowing what the personal needs of the caregiver are, and coping strategies and resources for combating compassion fatigue will equip the nurse to be successful and to continue to give the best treatment every patient deserves.
Signs of Compassion Fatigue
All of the sudden this heavy, gray, gloomy feeling starts to weigh on the nurses shoulders. The feeling has slowly been accumulating until it can no longer be carried around. It is called compassion fatigue. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could learn the warning signs and symptoms and head it off at the pass? ‘Some warning signs of compassion fatigue include lack of enjoyment in day-to-day activities, not deriving any joy from things that used to excite you before, difficulty in concentrating on any task, feelings of anxiety and perpetual fear, feelings of irritability triggered by trivial things, isolation from family and friends, detachment from work and life, inability to make big or small decisions, lack of interest in work, avoidance of certain situations and people at work, unprovoked outbursts of anger, or constant feeling of dread and imagination of doom’ (Bhuyan, 2011). I can relate to feeling irritability and intolerant of patients and/or colleagues. Feeling intolerant to things that typically aren’t bothersome. No one relishes in being angry, negative, or irritable. This is my number one sign that I need time away from the hospital and need special time for myself to recuperate. Another warning sign for me is when it’s hard to turn on that happy, sincere face when entering a patient’s room. I have to pretend that my pure existence is to meet their every need for the next twelve hours. When you have those challenging days, it sure does make you appreciate the good days when you are sincerely happy to be doing what you’re doing.
Causes of Compassion Fatigue
Being able to foresee what causes compassion fatigue may help to deal with it better. ‘Some causes may include interacting and caring for terminally ill patients day in and day out, caring for a physically or mentally challenged child, counseling grief-stricken families in times of grave environmental disasters, counseling victims of sexual abuse, working in a help line to support and encourage trauma victims, working in close association with mentally challenged people, or providing support to people suffering from depression’ (Medscape, 2011). Compassion fatigue can also be caused by caring for very sick patients that you know in your heart need more intense treatment but you as their nurse are not being heard, or supported by your team members. Another example may be consistently caring for innocent, drug exposed newborns, or constantly dealing the drama of taking these newborns away from inept biological parents. Realizing what causes compassion fatigue for you will help alleviate it by recognizing the signs and symptoms early. The causes can be different for everyone.
Needs of a Caregiver
As a caregiver, you need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually in order to care for someone else. Choose healthy meals and snacks and eat something every three hours. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Get exercise. Try taking a walk in the fresh air during your lunch break. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Messages are great for stress relief and overall health. Do not suppress your emotions. Share them with trusted friends and/or counselors. I find that if I vent, I can then let it go and not harbor it. Know where you stand spiritually and nurture that as well by praying or meditating. As the caregiver, if you can recognize and support your own needs, than you can better support your patient’s needs. This is easier said than done when in reality, a nurse doesn’t have time to eat, drink, or use the restroom. An idea could be to visualize you as a patient needing cared for as well. As you make your hourly rounds, be sure to round on yourself as well (ie refill you water cup, use the restroom, or eat a snack). In all actually, this only takes a few minutes and the benefits far exceed the short amount of time it takes.
Coping Strategies and Resources
Throughout your life you have developed coping strategies, some good, and some bad. One of the most positive coping strategies is exercise. Finding the time to squeeze anything else into your already busy schedule may seem impossible but this one is a must. Another coping strategy is to maintain a personal life. This is hard when you don’t feel like putting on anything more that scrubs, doing your hair, or make up but reconnecting with friends and family relieves the stress of care giving and compassion fatigue. Whatever you do, do not isolate yourself. No healing happens when you’re isolated and depressed. Try to laugh. Find your sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Watch funny movies. Any type of sense of humor will do, even a wicked one. When you can no longer joke around, means you need to take a break. Try not to play nurse or therapist in personal relationships. Leave work at work and be the mother and wife your family needs at home. Another coping strategy would be to broaden your network. Get involved in professional or social organizations where like-minded people meet and discuss events and mutual problems (Fletcher, 2012). Several resources are available if you’re battling compassion fatigue. These include: Behavioral HealthCare Journal @ www.bhcjournal.com, Caregiver Wellness Compassion Fatigue and Chronic Sorrow Workshops @ www.caregiverwellness.ca, or Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project @ www.compassionfatigue.org. If you are suffering, please reach out as this profession cannot afford to lose you.
Conclusion
I am so thankful to have found my calling in life; to have found my spiritual gift. The key to thriving in your personal life and as a caregiver is finding that balance; as with everything in life. When we give 110% of our self to anything, there is nothing left for ourselves or our family. This is the key to conquer compassion fatigue and to take care of you. Find the balance between being active and healthy, giving your mind the rest it needs, and feeding your soul spiritually. When nursing is your passion, it natural to lay it all out there, give everything you got to the ones your caring for. But remember that you can’t do this if you are there. References
Bhuyan, R. (2011, June 28). Compassion Fatigue Causes. Buzzle. Retrieved from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/compassion-fatigue-causes.html
Fletcher, S. (2012, Sept. 20). Strategies to Help Cope with Compassion Fatigue. Scrubs: the nursing guide to good living. Retrieved from http://scrubsmag.com/you-can-cope-with-compassion-fatigue/
Medscape. (2011). Reflecting on the Concept of Compassion Fatigue. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 16(1). Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745292…...

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