As healthcare provider shortages intensify worldwide, it’s become apparent that compassion fatigue is a leading factor in the loss. Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are seeing more cases, yet fewer resources. When our nation's hospital staff is being stretched this thin, finding the capacity to care is hard.
We are coming to three years post-pandemic and we are still seeing the major effects. Compassion fatigue is at an all-time high, especially among hospital staff, which have been on the front lines pre-, during, and post-pandemic. Due to their extreme proximity to many cases, healthcare professionals are struggling. So how do we combat compassion fatigue in arguably the most important role for compassion? But first, the basics.
Compassion Fatigue in Healthcare
Compassion fatigue is too often misunderstood as burnout. And while both have similar symptoms, compassion fatigue is much more dangerous. To set the record straight, compassion fatigue is best described as the cost of caring and is the emotional and mental distress that results in being close to traumatic situations. The main difference between burnout and compassion fatigue is their origin, as burnout stems from being overworked while compassion fatigue stems from dealing with trauma victims.
The reason compassion fatigue is so dangerous is that it majorly impacts the care of those in need of compassion. When a healthcare professional struggles with compassion fatigue, it then affects how they treat others which is a significant factor in their profession. Imagine being in pain and needing help, and your physician treats it with indifference due to their compassion fatigue. If we don’t care for each other, how do we care for the patients?
Incentivizing Hospital Staff to Combat Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is a hard battle to fight, and while there are many recommended ways to combat it, only a few are probably successful. Depending on the individual, below are some of the best ways to develop compassion after suffering from compassion fatigue.
Studies have shown that one of the most effective interventions to compassion fatigue is programs or seminars that teach you how to be resilient as a healthcare worker. The most accurate models for this program include five sessions designed to help healthcare providers identify symptoms of compassion fatigue, recognize the triggers, understand available resources, learn calming practices, and master conflict resolution. Since resilience is a trait that can be developed and strengthened, doing so in this way is one of the best practices for compassion fatigue.
The benefits of exercising are monumental, and not only physical. Being physically active not only helps your physical health but also your mental health due to the mind-body connection. There are many ways to align an exercise routine with your life and it is extremely helpful to get a handle on daily stressors. Exercising can help recharge your mindset, especially if you are working in an emotionally draining field such as healthcare.
Typically healthcare institutions provide counseling to their employees, but even if they don’t, it is very easy to get in touch with one who can help. Consider seeking out a licensed therapist for special treatment for compassion fatigue. Fighting compassion fatigue head-on could prove to be beneficial to both you and your patients.
Source: Univ. of Central Florida (2023) How Can Medical Professionals Avoid Compassion Fatigue?
Source: Mental Health America (2023) Compassion Fatigue, Empathy, Burnout for Health Care Workers: Which is it?