Mental Health Impact of Compassion Fatigue: HCP’s Solutions

Original Publishing Date: November 17, 2017
Publisher: Medpage Today
Author: Jennifer Flynn and Mary M. Gullatte

 “Acknowledging the severe emotional impact of a nurse’s obligation to routinely meet a patient’s immediate and comprehensive needs, nurses are in need of more specialized support resources to counter the impact.”

Healthcare practitioners today face “compassion fatigue” which means a state of psychic exhaustion. This is because they are not just observers of a patient but they also become an intimate part of their patient’s lives. Therefore, they witness pain, loss and death which could lead to emotional exhaustion.

“Facing multiple workplace stressors, coupled with the demands to respond to complicated patient needs as well as their home life, can negatively impact a nurse’s ability to cope with stress to the detriment of overall patient and nurse safety.”

Statistics show that a significant number of professional caregivers having compassion fatigue need time off for mental health reasons. The healthcare practitioner may either step away or give more of themselves, both of which could risk their patients as well. Their inability to react sympathetically could lead to problems in personal lives like divorce and addictions.

“Promoting self-care and other healthy rituals is important for preventing or recovering from compassion fatigue.” 

The article provides a self-assessment tool where professionals identify their attitudes and habits. Activities that promote overall wellness such as joining support groups, counselling or employee assistance programs can be beneficial. Keeping a healthy diet, having adequate sleep, along with regular exercise helps keep mind and body healthy. While healthcare professionals are accountable for self-care, it is also the responsibility of the industry and management to ensure safety of caregivers.

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