Compassion Fatigue

Research 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:
Identify the warning signs for at least five concepts of compassion fatigue.
Present the nature of the problems and their causes.
Explain the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the caregiver.
Finally, give examples of coping strategies and resources you can use to help you, the
caregiver.
Prepare this assignment according to the APA guidelines.

Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a concept that found its way in health community as a unique form
of burn out experienced by caregivers. Various researchers have defined this concept using
different terms but commonly, the term refers to the conditions that affect an individual’s
emotional, physical, social health and well-being. An overlap between compassion fatigue and
burnout exists and is possible for an individual to suffer from both. A burned out caregiver has
no ability to cope with job stress and exhibits symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, reduced
personal and professional accomplishments. Hence, it is possible for an individual to be burned
out and not experience compassion fatigue (Dennis, 2010, p. 49). Burn out is cumulative as
well as predictable while compassion fatigue is more complex and results from direct exposure
to suffering. As a result, these are important concepts in the healthcare profession as it helps
healthcare providers to adapt to ways that they can avoid them. This paper focuses on the
concept of compassion fatigue and burning out to enhance understanding and provide solutions
to caregivers when faced with the same.
Organization and its policies play a key role in creating conditions that reduce the risk of
burnout, trauma and compassion fatigues among its workers. Most of the workers that are
directly involved with patient care are exposed to negativity and suffering on their daily basis.

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The increased demand in the work place, exposure to traumatic scenes when they provide care
and stress at home contribute to compassion fatigue and other stresses. Burnout affects
caregivers who are repetitively exposed to suffering patients and can diminish their trust in
humanity leading to increased sense of vulnerability (Najjar, Davis, Beck-Coon, & Carney,
2009, p. 267). Various researchers have explored on how burning out affects the quality of
healthcare and treatment, how it leads to low morale and increased absenteeism that affects the
financial position of the hospitals. It is therefore important for the leaders and professional
caregivers as well as employers to provide the right impetus to help caregivers reduce the level
of burning out and developing compassion fatigue.
A caregiver that is burned out exemplifies various symptoms. It is important therefore for
the caregivers to notice such symptoms so as to be able to take appropriate action. Most of the
time these negative effects are not realized until when the care providers experience a health
crisis or other severe kinds of trauma (Dennis, 2010, p. 48). Some of the symptoms associated
with burn out include experiencing frequent colds, headaches, fatigue, reduced sense of
accomplishments, lowered resiliency and moodiness and increased interpersonal conflicts. If
these symptoms are not urgently treated, they move into an advance stage and this is a health
threat to the care provider’s health at this stage. The caregivers display various symptoms such as
somatic complaints, depersonalization, social withdrawal, exhaustion, cynicism, and low energy,
and irritability, development of feelings of being underappreciated and overworked. It is then
important for a caregiver that has these symptoms to seek medical attention to help manage it
before it goes out of hand.
On the other hand, a person suffering from compassion fatigue may experience a loss of
meaning and hope and is likely to have reactions associated with post-traumatic stress disorder

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such as being jumpy or easily startled, strong feelings of anxiety, difficulty in concentrating,
intrusive images of another traumatic material, irritability, difficulty sleeping and excessive
emotional numbing (Dennis, 2010, p. 48). Compassion stress is also caused by empathy, which
is a natural consequence of stress that comes from caring and helping suffering and traumatized
people. An individual or a caregiver does not necessarily have to be present at the scene or at the
stressful event scene to develop compassion fatigue.
Other symptoms or indicators of compassion fatigue are termination of care giving
neglect or abuse. This is because a caregiver develops a negative attitude or feels that they are
being overworked or is under role captivity therefore, it deters their enthusiasm to engage in their
care provision. Other consequence of compassion fatigue is that it leads to depression, feeling
burdened, a decrease in relationship quality and caregiver strain. Comparison fatigue burned out
symptoms can also be classified in terms of physical, emotional, spiritual, somatic, and
cognitive. Physical symptoms include absenteeism and laziness. Caregiver s’ needs are
categorized as emotional, spiritual and physical and they should be provided to enhance their
performance to avoid causing compassion fatigue.
Consequently, it is important to provide these needs to ensure that caregivers remain
committed and are not burned out. Physical needs that should be provided include proper or god
working conditions. The working conditions such as the atmosphere and the relationship
between the management should be supportive (Najjar et al, 2009, p. 268). They should be
provided with all equipments to help them execute their duties well. Emotional needs include
getting support from their employers and guiding and counseling personnel on how they should
manage such stress and negative outcomes. Spiritual needs that these caregivers needs are that
which should help them restore their hope and undertake their obligation positively. They

COMPASSION FATIGUE 4
should be encouraged to seek religious and spiritual pathways to help them serve their patients
without fear and discouragements.
It is therefore important for caregivers to adapt to coping strategies to ensure that
compassion fatigue and burnout is managed. One of the strategies to cope is for the caregiver to
challenge the obstacles that get in the way of self-care. Caregivers should take time to take care
of themselves as this also helps them to care for others. It is also important for employees and
organizations to create and open environment, which ensures that there is an opportunity for
mutual support. Employees should be encouraged to talk and share about what they experience
at their work stations. They should also be offered training to educate them about burnout and
compassion fatigue and the ways of recognizing these symptoms. This will help them to identify
such signs early and take appropriate course of action (Elizabeth, 2010, p. 191). It is also
important for the caregivers to share their caseload among teams especially in event when the
cases are difficult. This helps to reduce stress and fatigue among the care providers. It is also
salient for the care providers to make or create time for social interaction. They should also
participate or engage in social activities such as yearly retreats to help build cohesion and trust.
Healthy self-care habits should also be encouraged such as ensuring that they feed on quality
food and get enough sleep and take breaks during work. They also need to be well rewarded and
allowed flextime to help reduce monotony and stress.
Another coping strategy for people with compassion fatigue is to avoid making any major
life decisions until one is completely recovered, spiritual, physically and emotionally. It is not
advisable for an individual for instance to quit work or divorce but rather should find ample time
to manage the fatigue. Another coping strategy for caregivers is to spare work from home
through emotional decompression such as engaging in physical activities, techniques of

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distraction, imagery tactics, or any combination of these (Najjar et al, 2009, p. 267). This
strategy will help their minds to be occupied and therefore helping them to cope or reduce the
level of compassion fatigue and trauma. The caregivers can also refuse to be victims by always
having self-determination in their roles despite the challenges in their work environments. They
can also reduce compassion fatigue through laughing as this helps to reduce tension and stress.
In conclusion compassion fatigue and the problem of burning out is something that
affects many care providers. It is the duty of the employers and the professional caregivers to
find amicable solutions to ensure that these problems are managed. The impacts of compassion
fatigue and burning out are huge as they affect service delivery and have financial implication
among many others. Care providers therefore should develop interventions to reduce these
devastating outcomes. There are many intervention options available that can be adopted which
includes anticipatory guidance, medication, improvement of social interaction, self disclosure,
education programs on creation of awareness about signs and symptoms of burnout and
compassion fatigue among many others such as behavioral management. It is through such
strategies that caregivers will be in a position to deliver excellence services without
compromising their well-being.

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References

Elizabeth, Y. (2010). Caring Too Much: Compassion Fatigue in Nursing, Applied Nursing
Research 23(4):191-197.
Dennis, P. (2010). Burn out and compassion fatigue: Watch for the signs, Journal of the catholic
health association of the United States, 48-52. <

Najjar, N., Davis, L., Beck-Coon, K., & Carney, D. (2009). Compassion fatigue: a review of the
research to date and relevance to cancer-care providers, Journal of Health Psychology,
14(2): 267–277.

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