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Combating Compassion Fatigue

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Healthcare providers are at increased risk for compassion fatigue (CF), which has also been called secondary traumatic stress, second hand shock syndrome, secondary stress reaction, and vicarious trauma (ABA, 2011). Compassion fatigue begins to become an issue when caregivers give too much of themselves to others and neglect to provide for their own needs. Neglecting one’s personal needs can be harmful, leading to destructive behaviors and patterns, such as over indulgence and increased sick calls. Over time the provider has a decreased ability to show compassion. This paper will discuss and describe compassion fatigue, warning signs of compassion fatigue, and discuss recovery options for those suffering from compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is expressed as a form of burnout due to the intensifying emotional, physical, and psychological effects of being exposed to the stressful and often emotionally draining circumstances of our patients and coworkers while providing care. Coupled with our own stressors in our everyday lives can lead to spiritual exhaustion (Pfifferling & Gilley, 2000). Compassion fatigue may change the overall view of how the caregiver or nurse views their everyday life or society in general. Caregivers with compassion fatigue often expend a huge amount of care, energy and compassion to those they care for, but do not get enough support for themselves individually to replenish their depleted energy. It has often been said that caregivers make the worst patients, for they have difficulty allowing themselves to be cared for. In “Treating Compassionate Fatigue,” Charles Figley wrote, “There is a cost to caring. Sometimes we feel we are losing our sense of self to the clients we serve. Those who have enormous capacity for feeling and expressing empathy tend to be more at risk of compassionate stress.” Compassion fatigue has a huge impact...

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