Compassion Fatigue: Traumatic Stress Disorders Essay

1661 words - 7 pages

Compassion fatigue is the combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical distress (Anewalt, 2009; Figley, 1995). It is something that can happen to any nurse being overwhelmed in one or more areas of life and/or work. There are multiple ways a nurse can cope with compassion fatigue, and the article gives two great case studies. The first is of the reactive nurse who ultimately runs away from her issues but never truly fixes why she had the fatigue at all. The second is of a proactive nurse who used the resources provided to pull out of the fatigue and ended up in a better position because of it. Some keys points are made about what compassion fatigue is truly made of and how to set it apart from burnout. The key is to look at the symptoms to assist in differentiating compassion fatigue from burnout which were explained in detail in a table in the article. Once it is proven the issue is compassion fatigue interventions can occur to help pull the nurse out of that slump. This includes things available to the nurse such as Employee Assistance Programs which have many classes offered for both work and home life. Another idea is to create a comfortable, relaxing environment in a designated place on the nursing unit (Lombardo, 2011). Also having new nurse support groups within the new nurse graduate programs in hospitals to give them a chance to reflect along the way is useful. Compassion fatigue, as stated in the article, needs to be studied in its entirety and the specific characteristics and experiences need to be identified as well as what personal qualities and traits might provide protection (Lombardo, 2011).
Major ethical issue:
Most nurses choose their career to simply help others by providing empathetic care while focusing on the person as a whole, not just a diagnosis at a time. Compassion fatigue can turn good nurses into poor and dangerous nurses and simply breaks some of the codes of ethics given by the ANA. It seems to happen to nurses caring for the most critically ill and those nurses who work in very busy areas, like the emergency department. Jean Watson’s theory on nursing involves relationship-based nursing. Empathy is central to this theory and the nurse must communicate empathy to the patient and family. This theory is lost when compassion fatigue has come into play. In the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, code one states that ‘the nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems’ (American, 2001). Having compassion fatigue clearly counters this code and depending on where the nurse is on the spectrum of compassion fatigue, this code could be broken on many levels and become a slippery slope...

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