Described as the convergence of secondary traumatic stress (STS) and cumulative burnout, Compassion Fatigue is considered a state of physical and mental exhaustion caused by an inability to cope with one’s everyday environment. Compassion Fatigue is common amongst professionals who are regularly exposed to traumatic life experiences, such as healthcare specialists. The lasting results of Compassion Fatigue can impact standards of patient care, personal and professional relationships, or even lead to serious mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue
- Work-related issues encroach on personal time
- An inability to “let go” of work-related issues
- Thoughts and feelings of inadequacy as a caregiver
- Loss of enjoyment in self-care activities
- Loss of energy
- Loss of hope
- Unhealthy self-soothing behaviors
- Increased anxiety
- Inability to sleep
- Sudden an inexplicable impulses
In the work environment, notable signs of a healthcare provider experiencing compassion fatigue include increased fatigue and nervousness, cynicism and pessimism, a loss of self esteem, misdirected anger towards colleagues, a desire to quit, and daily anxiety about going to work. At home, a fatigued individual suffers from sleeplessness, changes in appetite, weight loss/gain, nightmares about work experiences, and a loss of interest in social activities.
The content of this issue is based on a webinar presentation by Chaplain Julie Allen Berger, D.Min., BCC-HPCC (Chaplain, Palliative Care and Oncology Services, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO) and Catherine Powers, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC (Clinical Nurse Specialist, Heart & Vascular Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, MO). A special thanks to Julie and Catherine for their contributions to this in-service. We’d also like to extend a sincere thanks to J. Eric Gentry PhD, Vice President of Arizona Trauma Institute, for his contributions to this educational offering.