Stress—including workplace stress—can affect every aspect of your life and even alter your physical well-being. Nurses are especially vulnerable to an extreme form of stress and anxiety called compassion fatigue.
During Nurses Week, where the focus is on nurses, BAYADA wants to remind all health care professionals to care for themselves, too. Here’s what you should know about managing compassion fatigue.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is deep physical and spiritual exhaustion—accompanied by emotional pain—from providing care for patients. It is extremely widespread among health care professionals, particularly if they work intimately with elderly patients and those suffering from terminal illnesses.
Are You Suffering From Compassion Fatigue and Nurse Stress?If you think you may be suffering from compassion fatigue, you’re not alone. Global nursing studies have reported that as many as 40% of nurses experience some type of compassion fatigue or burnout from work.*
Signs of Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue comes in many different forms. Experts cite a wide range of potential symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping
- Headaches, lower back pain, and digestive problems
- Irritable and angry at others
- Poor self-care and low self-confidence
- Isolation and bottling of emotions
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Apathy toward self, others, and patients
- Compulsive behavior
What Compassion Fatigue Feels Like
Nursing stress may come in spells or feel like a constant cloud over your head. No matter what symptoms you experience, compassion fatigue will feel like an insurmountable burden of negative energy that you can’t escape.
Strategies for Coping
For many nurses, stress and fatigue can feel like part of the job, but they don’t have to be.
Awareness is the first step toward coping with compassion fatigue. If you think you’re suffering from compassion fatigue, there are stress management strategies to deal with your feelings in a healthy way.
How to manage compassion fatigue:
- Speak to a therapist or close friend
- Exercise regularly and eat well
- Pursue interests and hobbies outside of work
- Prioritize a good night’s sleep
- Separate your work life from your personal life
The Effect of Death and Dying on Stress
Compassion fatigue is especially common for home caregivers. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of saying goodbye to patients with whom you’ve become close, or helpless when their progress stalls. You can’t possibly carry the burden of others’ suffering alone—nor should you have to.
It’s important to keep in mind that you are doing an amazing job making your patients’ lives more comfortable. Focus on your positive impact for patients and their grateful families.
Make Self-Care and Self-Compassion a Priority
When you care so much for others, it’s easy to forget about caring for your own needs. That’s why self-care and self-compassion are crucial to overcoming compassion fatigue. It’s okay to take time to focus on yourself and your needs and interests; you deserve it.
*Source: Van Mol, Margo M.C. “The Prevalence of Compassion Fatigue and Burnout among Healthcare Professionals in Intensive Care Units” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554995/)