Compassion Fatigue In Pediatric Oncology Nurses

1511 words - 6 pages

Pediatric oncology nurses are given the unique opportunity to make connections and build long-term relationship with their patients and families. Standard treatment protocol for many childhood cancers span over the course of years, with long-term surveillance and follow up visits after treatment has finished. Due to their patient’s chronic diagnoses and the acuity of their conditions, pediatric oncology nurses work in an environment of increased stress. The high stress environment puts the nurses at an increased risk for compassion fatigue; so it is the responsibility of both the nurse, and the institution to be aware of the symptoms and to effectively manage the condition should it arise. Without proper attention to the stress management of pediatric oncology nurses, compassion fatigue may be of concern and put patient care at risk.
Compassion fatigue is a complex form of secondary traumatic stress often experienced by nurses and other health care professionals due to their stressful work environment. Compassion fatigue is extreme exhaustion that penetrates all aspects of one’s wellbeing, including the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of life (Murphy-Ende, 2012). Dealing with children who are both chronically ill or in palliative care is known to be extremely stressful. Not only are nurses faced with dealing with the physical symptoms of their patients, they also must attend to their fragile emotional state and be of assistance to their anxious family members. Oncologic diagnoses can put a child and their family into turmoil. Since the nurse is the first, and most constant point of contact, they are often the ones who become responsible for ensuring well-being of the entire family throughout the cancer journey. The nurse is not only responsible for chemotherapy and blood product administration, but also pain and symptom management. Nurses also provide end of life, and post mortem care. When a patient dies, the nurse often grieves alongside the family and helps to provide them with emotional support (Hecktman, 2012). Although the prognoses of childhood cancer have improved drastically over the last 30 years, many children still succumb to the disease. Nurses are the ones who provide constant bedside care, and often “must confront the limits of what medicine can do for people” (Schuster, 2013). This can prove to be difficult and bring on feelings of hopelessness and as though they are not helping their patients at all. Patients can leave lasting impacts on the nursing staff, and when multiple children die while in their care, the nurse may begin to experience cumulative loss. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of non-accidental death for children in Canada, and therefore, pediatric oncology nurses are often exposed to death on a routine basis, with little time to grieve between the deaths. It is imperative that nurses are aware of their stressors and how they respond to stress in order to effectively care for...

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