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How Nurses Fight Compassion Fatigue

Career News July 17, 2013

Compassion fatigue is a common condition among caregivers of all types. It is especially noticeable in those who work with trauma victims, but it is by no means limited to trauma caregivers. Nurses’ compassion fatigue is especially prevalent among nurses and aides in all areas. The constant giving of care and compassion can lead to a state where nurses feel burnt-out, depressed, stressed-out and hopeless. As hopeless as the condition may feel; however, there are ways to overcome it. Here are ways nurses fight compassion fatigues in today’s world.

Know the Signs

The signs of compassion fatigue are often similar to those people who have experienced emotional abuse or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). If you notice many of these signs, you owe it to yourself and your patients, to help yourself.

Signs of compassion fatigue include:

•No longer caring about the stress or pain of others
•Chronic anger or depression
•Decreased ability to feel joy or enjoyment
•Trouble sleeping
•Chronic lateness
•Low self-esteem
•Unrealistic self-expectations
•Hopelessness
•Constant feelings of being tired

If you are experiencing even one or two of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to seek help. This is true even if you have felt them since before your nursing career. Compassion fatigue often starts earlier in life than many people recognize.

Talk to Someone

Compassion fatigue is a prominent part of working in the health care industry. It’s even talked about frequently on a personal level (although not necessarily in clinical terms).

Nurses who feel like they’re suffering from this kind of burn-out should not worry about how it would affect their careers, if they choose to talk to somebody. After all, most people in the profession have been there before. It’s likely that one of your co-workers can recommend a counselor or therapist.

Of course, you don’t have to tell anyone at your work if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to see a therapist. 12-step groups like Al-Anon and Codependents Anonymous, while not everyone’s cup of tea, deal with similar issues to those you are experiencing.

There may also be other support groups in your area. Or, you may want to talk to a friend or family member. The important thing is to talk to someone. You might be amazed at how much it helps!

Take Time to be “Selfish”

One major cause of compassion fatigue among caregivers is that they spend most of their time caring for others and little to no care for themselves.

The roots of the problem often go back further than the start of their careers. It may extend into childhood, where the nurse was taught that focusing on one’s own needs was selfish or otherwise wrong.

Whatever the source of these feelings in the caregiver, it’s important to remember that nurturing one’s self is not genuinely selfish. It’s simply what any human needs to do in order to keep functioning! And if you don’t take care of yourself, there is simply no way you can do your job correctly and take care of others.

That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself. Even 20 or 30 minutes a day is good, although an hour is better! Taking a walk, reading, exercising, or just finding time alone, helps many nurses recharge and rejuvenate.

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