Compassion Fatigue: Traumatic Stress Disorders

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Compassion fatigue is the combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical distress (Anewalt, 2009; Figley, 1995). It is something that can happen to any nurse being overwhelmed in one or more areas of life and/or work. There are multiple ways a nurse can cope with compassion fatigue, and the article gives two great case studies. The first is of the reactive nurse who ultimately runs away from her issues but never truly fixes why she had the fatigue at all. The second is of a proactive nurse who used the resources provided to pull out of the fatigue and ended up in a better position because of it. Some keys points are made about what compassion fatigue is truly made of and how to set it apart from burnout. The key is to look at the symptoms to assist in differentiating compassion fatigue from burnout which were explained in detail in a table in the article. Once it is proven the issue is compassion fatigue interventions can occur to help pull the nurse out of that slump. This includes things available to the nurse such as Employee Assistance Programs which have many classes offered for both work and home life. Another idea is to create a comfortable, relaxing environment in a designated place on the nursing unit (Lombardo, 2011). Also having new nurse support groups within the new nurse graduate programs in hospitals to give them a chance to reflect along the way is useful. Compassion fatigue, as stated in the article, needs to be studied in its entirety and the specific characteristics and experiences need to be identified as well as what personal qualities and traits might provide protection (Lombardo, 2011).

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...hetic nurse. Compassion fatigue is a real world issue in the nursing field and should be studied further to help nurses even avoid getting to that point in the first place.

Works Cited

American Nurses Association (ANA). (2001). Code of ethics. Retrieved from
Anewalt, P. (2009). Fired up or burned out? Understanding the importance of professional boundaries in home health care hospice. Home Healthcare Nurse, 27(10), 591-597.
Figley, C.R. (1995). Compassion fatigue: Coping with secondary traumatic stress disorder in those who treat the traumatized. New York: Brunner-Mazel.
Lombardo, B., Eyre, C., (Jan 31, 2011) "Compassion Fatigue: A Nurse’s Primer" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 16, No. 1, Manuscript 3.
Watson, J. (2010). The theory of human caring: Retrospective and prospective. Nursing Science Quarterly, 1, 49-52.
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