By Kora Behrens, Clinical Nurse Manager, Medical Solutions
Compassion fatigue is a real problem in today’s nursing staff. And even though it has been identified as an issue, compassion fatigue is often overlooked or ignored. This is an alarming fact!
Healthcare already suffers from a shortage of nurses, and to make matters worse, compassion fatigue is exhausting the nurses that we do have at the bedside. To combat this problem, it’s important to understand that compassion fatigue is more than just physical exhaustion. Compassion fatigue is emotional, physical, AND spiritual exhaustion resulting from caring for patients and witnessing the pain and suffering they are going through. This exhaustion is directly correlated with the diminished ability to provide compassionate care, a decrease in quality care, and decisions to leave the workplace all together. Despite these profound consequences, few institutions offer support for compassion fatigue.
Unresolved compassion fatigue not only influences the nurse, but it also affects organizations in terms of increases of absenteeism, performance issues, decreased quality care, interpersonal issues, and increased staff turnover. To intervene against these harmful effects, it becomes important for agencies that Travel Nurses are employed with and healthcare facilities to take a stand against compassion fatigue.
Strategies for preventing and managing compassion fatigue include a call for nurses to strive for and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Nurses must practice self-care and they need to focus on sustaining emotional health. One strategy to manage this problem is finding activities and practices that replenish, comfort, and rejuvenate the spirit. Activities may include physical exercise, journaling, reading, spending time with family — basically, anything that promotes rest and comfort. It may also be helpful for nurses to establish a method of shedding the professional role at the end of the day including rituals such as playing music at the completion of a shift, putting your stethoscope and equipment away, or simply reflecting on your drive home from work.
Perhaps the most important thing that nurses and facilities can do to contend with this problem is to endorse a keen sense of self-awareness. Realizing what you are feeling and when compassion fatigue is setting in can have a huge influence on minimizing the consequences of this neglected problem. Self-awareness requires open discussion and honesty. It may be helpful and beneficial for the nurse to discuss their feelings with other colleagues. In fact, most nurses prefer conversations with close friends or co-workers for support and feedback. The support that is provided through colleagues increases development of self-care strategies to stay physically and emotionally healthy. Adopting these strategies for healthy living is much easier when self-awareness is present. It takes less effort to combat compassion fatigue when you have the support that you need and the self-awareness to know when a problem exists. Ultimately, the key to keeping nurses at the bedside is to diminish any effects that compassion fatigue could have on our workforce.
Take care of yourself and your colleagues out there — and remember that your Career Consultant and Medical Solutions’ Clinical Team are always here to support you when you need us!