Combating compassion fatigue

Read the articles listed in the readings for this module and use them as a starting point
for researching the topic of compassion fatigue, caregiver burnout, and related issues.
Evaluate your sources to make sure they are academically sound and useful to your
study. Compile concepts and resources to help yourself when facing burnout as you care
for patients.
In 1,250-1500 words, summarize your findings. Be sure to include the following:
1.Identify the warning signs for at least five concepts of compassion fatigue.
2.Present the nature of the problems and their causes.
3.Explain the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the caregiver.
4.Finally, give examples of coping strategies and resources you can use to help you, the

Combating compassion fatigue

Compassion is a fundamental characteristic that is implemented by health care providers
in the provision of healthcare. Compassion is a feeling of sorrow and deep sympathy towards a
person stricken by a misfortune that is usually accompanied by a desire to alleviate this suffering.
Health care providers such as nurses provide selfless service, compassion, tireless dedication and
they end up neglecting their personal needs. This makes them vulnerable to experience
compassion fatigue which is an emotional problem (Todaro, 2013).
Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout that emerges abruptly with little warning and is
relatively more pervasive than burnout. Burnout refers to a state of physical, emotional, and
mental exhaustion that result from emotionally demanding situations. It is accompanied by
negative feelings and disillusionment. Burnout among nurses poses an effect on the quality of
treatment for a patient, increases absenteeism and lowers morale accompanied by a financial
impact. Recognition of signs of burnout and compassion fatigue by Professional caregivers is
important because it exposes people with helping roles to a greater risk. The early symptoms of
compassion fatigue include headaches, a reduced sense of accomplishment, frequent colds,
fatigue, moodiness, lowered resiliency and increased interpersonal conflicts. In addition to these

symptoms, a person with compassion fatigue experience a feeling of loss of hope and meaning
and might have reactions that are associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) like
difficulty to concentrate, strong feelings of anxiety, irritability, excessive emotional numbing,
difficulty to fall asleep among others. In the long-term, effects of reduced empathy, reduced
sense of control, and diminished sense of personal safety, hopelessness and drug or alcohol abuse
are experienced (Stebnicki, 2008).
The five major concepts of compassion fatigue include physical exhaustion, apathy,
emotional exhaustion, depression, and compulsive behavior
Physical exhaustion

Health care providers are notorious for not caring about their nutritional and physical
needs. Health maintenance and balance requires proper nutrition, adequate rest and daily exercise
as the basic needs. Compromising these needs leads to physical and mental suffering of the care
givers. The human body requires a minimum of 8 to 10 hours per night to avoid physical
exhaustion. The common symptoms of physical exhaustion include insomnia, exhaustion,
headaches, susceptibility to infection and being prone to accidents (Todaro, 2013).


Apathy refers to lack of interest and concern by the health care providers who suffer from
compassion fatigue. The signs of apathy include increased absenteeism from duty, attitude
changes and increased complaints from other people. This causes health professionals to fail to
accomplish their tasks in time. Talking to the other healthcare team is vital to mitigate apathy
(Stebnicki, 2008).

Emotional exhaustion

Healthcare providers such as the nurses with compassion fatigue may experience
emotional exhaustion that results in an active withdrawal from a caregiving situation. Persistence
of emotional exhaustion may lead a caregiver to resign from his or her profession. This may
eventually lead to inadequate professionals in the healthcare industry (Jameson, 2012).


Depression is another concept of compassion fatigue. It refers to the devastating feeling
of hopelessness and sadness. The indicators for depression include lack of self-worth and
purpose, low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and lack of motivation or joy. Signs of
depression also include feelings of loss of energy, losing interest in ordinary activities and loss of
appetite and weight (Stebnicki, 2008).

Impaired judgment

This concept of compassion fatigue is a response to the other concepts of compassion
fatigue. It is the inability of the health care professionals to make the right decisions while
considering outcomes. The main sign of this concept is evidenced by increased worrying and
behaving inappropriately (Stebnicki, 2008).

Nature of problems and their causes

Professionals in the health care have many goals to achieve and the most important is to
offer the best healthcare to the patients. To achieve this, healthcare professionals need to practice
a well-balanced life style to effectively provide patient care. Generally, promotion of insufficient
healthy measures in a mental and physical manner will cause health inconsistencies in patient
care, work performance and life of health professionals. Neglecting their own self-care and
solely providing care to patients, results in experiencing the disorder of compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is caused by empathy and it’s a natural consequence of stress, resulting from
caring for suffering or traumatized people (Jameson, 2012).
The early warning signs of compassion fatigue include the lack of having faith and hope
and expression of cruel and rude comments inside and outside the place of work. More so, other
gradual warning signs include emotional and physical exhaustion, depression, lack of motivation,
apathy, and impaired judgment (Jameson, 2012).

Physical, spiritual and emotional needs of caregivers

The emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the caregiver requires to be addressed and
sustained due to the increased vulnerability of this group to compassion fatigue that stems out
from the nature of their work. Regardless of the care givers working environment, they are most
likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed. The nurses work in the most challenging and stressful
professions since they address situations of emergency and complex needs (Todaro, 2013).
In achieving the emotional needs of the care givers, they should consider their needs and
desires. Addressing the needs of the care givers will ensure that your patients and loved ones
receive better care. This requires health professionals to pay attention to their own feelings such
as anxiety, depression, anger and frustration, grief and guilt. On the other hand, physical needs of
health professionals concern mainly their health. Health professionals therefore need to check on
their eating habits, and duration taken to sleep in avoiding compassion fatigue. The strategies to
be employed to sustain physical needs of the care givers include eating a balanced diet,
exercising and creating relaxation time (Todaro, 2013).
Coping strategies

Several strategies may be effective to prevent compassion fatigue. Efforts such as taking
a one day off or requesting change in an assignment may help health professionals to reverse
their health discomfort. Nurses should use informal debriefing with other nurses as it promotes
development of friendship. Provision of in-service education by the hospitals should be used to
raise awareness regarding compassion fatigue and provide the necessary skills. This enables the
nurses to discover compassion fatigue in its early stages among themselves. More so, nursing
programs are required to introduce this issue into the curriculum in order to raise awareness
concerning compassion fatigue, thereby enabling students to understand about compassion
fatigue. This will help them to learn on how to prevent its occurrence in their own practice
(Todaro, 2013).
Exercise is another important strategy for coping with compassion fatigue. Physical and
mental benefits of exercising make the health providers more productive. Family dinners, having
lunch outs, prayer, meditation and time with friends help to eliminate stress and depression.
Health providers should also maintain a sense of humor, set limits between home and work
activities and broaden their network (Jameson, 2012).
Application of necessary skills is required to combat compassion. These coping skills are
either intended to increase support socially or maintain a task-focused behavior. Banishing of
negative feelings is also important. Suffering from depression and lack of interest requires a
health provider to focus in the future. To increase social support, care givers should seek for
assistance or emotional support from peers, communicate with peers about stress management,
and be humorous to reduce anxiety and tension. To maintain behaviors that are task- focused,
care givers require to use tools of problem solving, generate solutions to arising problems, seek
help when necessary and keep focus on the task at hand (Jameson, 2012)

However, prevention is the important strategy for coping with compassion fatigue. Health
professionals are required to be alert to the warning signs of compassion fatigue and take action
promptly before suffering from hopelessness and helplessness (Jameson, 2012).


The symptoms of compassion fatigue appear to be responsive to treatment. The coping
strategies to compassion fatigue discussed above offer a foundation for assisting care givers note
the symptoms, resolve and prevent development of compassion fatigue. More so, with
determination and skilled intervention, healthcare providers with compassion fatigue can
undergo transformation and make them empowered and resilient.



Jameson, Al. (2012). Intervention: Reducing Compassion Fatigue: About to Give Up on
Someone Who Needs Help?. West Bow Pr.
Stebnicki, M. A. (2008). Empathy Fatigue: Healing the Mind, Body, and Spirit of Professional
Counselors. New York: Springer Pub. Co.
Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2013). Compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing: Enhancing
professional quality of life. New York: Springer Pub.