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Compassion Fatigue: What It Is and How to Cope With It

Darian Khalilpour
Author: Darian Khalilpour
Date: August 30, 2023
Tags: Community, Healthcare Professionals, Healthcare Staffing, Nursing

Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are often hailed as heroes because they dedicate their lives to caring for the sick and injured, providing comfort, and saving lives. However, the demands of this noble profession can sometimes take an immense toll on the emotional and mental well-being of those who provide care resulting in conditions like burnout or compassion fatigue, which we will be highlighting in this blog.

Healthcare workers are at a high risk for compassion fatigue because they are constantly exposed to the pain and suffering of others. They may see patients who are dying, injured, or in pain. They may also hear about the trauma that patients have experienced. This exposure to trauma can take a toll on the emotional well-being of healthcare workers. In this blog, we’ll delve into what compassion fatigue is, its causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how it can be managed and prevented.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is a state of emotional, physical, and psychological exhaustion that results from prolonged exposure to the suffering and trauma of patients. It’s often referred to as the “cost of caring” and can be particularly debilitating for healthcare workers who constantly witness pain, illness, and death. While it shares similarities with burnout, which is caused from having too much work, compassion fatigue is distinct in that it specifically relates to the emotional labor of caring for others.

Compassion fatigue develops in HCPs over time, as they are exposed to different forms of patient trauma. It keeps building slowly due to repeated trauma exposure, and if left unmanaged, it can cause HCPs to not care about themselves or others in their life due to the overuse of their compassion skills and reserves. The types of trauma HCPs are exposed to can be broken down into these three categories:

Aside from exposure to various forms of trauma, HCPs can experience compassion fatigue as a result of others factors as well. First, a lack of control due to limited resources or systemic issues can at times cause HCPs to feel helpless and unable to provide the level of care they desire. Second, due to the nature of their jobs, HCPs often place a great deal of emotional investment in their patients, and this investment can lead to emotional exhaustion and cause them to feel compassion fatigue. Last, HCPs often have to work long hours with a high workload, and that type of fast-paced environment can contribute to stress which helps make them more susceptible to compassion fatigue.

Common Compassion Fatigue Symptoms

Compassion fatigue can manifest in various forms, and its symptoms may vary from person to person. Some common signs of compassion fatigue include:

Managing and Preventing Compassion Fatigue

Many HCPs experience some form of compassion fatigue during their careers, so it is important to learn prevention strategies that can help them cope. By taking steps to prevent compassion fatigue, healthcare professionals can better protect their own mental and emotional health and continue to provide compassionate care to their patients. These are some strategies to consider:

How Amergis Healthcare Staffing Helps HCPs Combat Compassion Fatigue

In addition to the strategies listed above, Amergis Staffing HCPs have access to the following resources that can help them cope with compassion fatigue or other mental health challenges:

Connect with Amergis Staffing to learn more about the resources we offer to help our HCPs cope with compassion fatigue.

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