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How Nurses Fight Compassion Fatigue

The challenges of nursing don’t just lie in the physical and intellectual components of the job. Often, it is the emotional element of nursing that can be the most draining. As nurses tend to sick, frightened patients and deal with concerned family members day after day, it can take an emotional toll that bleeds into both their professional and personal lives.

How to Deal with Compassion Fatigue as a Nurse

Compassion fatigue is a form of secondary traumatic stress, an offshoot of post traumatic stress disorder, according to Psychology Today, which stems from dealing with the trauma experienced by others. It doesn’t require a major event to come about. It often transpires over months or years of nursing due to the constant exposure of nurses to traumatic situations and the suffering of others.

When fatigued, nurses may begin to turn off their emotional connections to their patients and even their loved ones. They may become numbed to the emotions of others, and suffer a variety of symptoms.

Major psychological warning signs of compassion fatigue in nurses, according to Nursing World, include:

•Anger
•Feelings of inadequacy
•A decrease in personal satisfaction
•Irritability
•Anxiety
•Depression
•Low self-esteem
•Loss of personal and professional enjoyment
•Feelings of hopelessness
•Decreased empathy
•Mood swings

Major physical warning signs include:

•Exhaustion
•Headaches
•Stomach issues
•Nausea
•Dizziness

Since compassion fatigue doesn’t come on all at once, generally sneaking up on those who suffer from it, nurses and the people around them may fail to notice there’s a problem. This makes it essential for nurses to stay on top of their own health while caring for others, so they can recognize changes in their physical or mental states as they come about. Symptoms that cannot be otherwise explained may be based in the burnout known as compassion fatigue.

Fighting Nurses Compassion Fatigue

The good news for nurses is that the simplest means of fighting nurses’ compassion fatigue may also be the most effective method. Nurses who become fatigued often do so because they fail to care for themselves, as well as care for their patients. By putting effort into their own physical and emotional well-being, they can combat the effects of fashion fatigue and reverse the fatigue process.

For nurses working long hours, this may be more easily said than done. This is especially true when full-time nurses have other life responsibilities, such as caring for children or aging parents. Between work and home life, there may be no time left at the end of the day for nurses to think about themselves.

Self-consideration is exactly what nurses need in order to fight the effects of compassion fatigue, though. The best way to fight fatigue is to prevent it, which nurses can do by living a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, and exercising. Once nurses begin to experience unexplainable symptoms that could stem from compassion fatigue, they need to reconsider their day to day lives to make sure they have some time for themselves.

Alone time for nurses doesn’t have to be spent meditating or affirming themselves. Nurses simply need to spend some time away from caring for other people. It may be as simple as putting the kids to bed a little earlier each night and spending an hour reading or watching TV, instead of making lunches and cleaning up.

Getting Help for Nursing Compassion Fatigue

It may be impossible to prevent some compassion fatigue from the job, but nurses can help each other by creating a nurturing work environment. When nurses can talk about the stresses of the job with each other, no one has to carry those stresses alone.

If self-care and a support system at work don’t prevent the effects of compassion fatigue from taking hold, though, it may be time to take a step back from the job. Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project founder Patricia Smith recommends talking to a supervisor about cutting back on hours and getting more help at home.

Compassion fatigue cannot be prevented through will-power alone. Overcoming the fatigue that stems from dealing with others pain and suffering takes a concerted effort. Nurses, who take the time to care for themselves, admit when they start to feel burnt out, and take steps to reduce their fatigue can regain their sense of self and faltering empathy.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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