5 Ways To Reduce Nurse Compassion Fatigue

For nurses, compassion fatigue can mean disruptions to their emotional and physical health. It can manifest itself as headaches, anxiousness, changes in appetite, or mood swings. Understanding the effects of this condition and finding ways to combat them can improve your overall well-being and help you provide compassionate care.

Compassion fatigue occurs when there is repeated exposure to stressful, traumatic, or saddening experiences or environments, which creates a decline in empathetic ability. As a nurse, you provide care with empathy and sensitivity, and compassion fatigue may cause you to feel disconnected from the compassion you usually have.

Signs of nurse compassion fatigue — increased anger or agitation, low self-esteem, loss of interest in activities, or sleeping difficulties — not only affect patient care and your professional life, but your personal life as well.

A 2019 study on compassion fatigue in nursing found that it affects nurses regardless of specialty, years of experience, or age. On the bright side, the results also showed that supportive leadership, awareness of symptoms, and coping strategies were successful in preventing or reducing this condition.

Your role is instrumental in providing quality patient care, so by recognizing compassion fatigue and implementing strategies, you can mitigate its effects.

Self-regulation

Because nurses are on the front lines of health care, they’re bound to have stressful encounters with patients, families, or even colleagues. Their roles require them to maintain composure in difficult situations even if their own well-being is at risk. Self-regulation refers to regulating and relaxing the body to maintain control when responding to a stressful situation. Mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises, can help.

A study on mindfulness found that nurses who practiced these techniques showed an improvement in their emotional well-being. These methods can aid in fostering self-compassion and reducing negative responses or thoughts that could lead to compassion fatigue.

Trish Richardson, MSN, BSBA, RN, NE-BC, CMSRN, Director of Post-Acute Care Solutions at Relias, discussed how self-regulation has helped her throughout her career.

“I made it a practice to stop at a patient’s door and cleanse my mind before entering, reminding myself that they need my full attention,” she said. “Our unit put into practice post-code debriefs, allowing staff to receive care and attention and an opportunity to ‘refill their cups’.”

Post-code debrief is a practice that gives healthcare staff time to process emotions and reflect with colleagues after a traumatic situation. Richardson added that because this technique focused on the well-being of herself and her colleagues, they were better prepared to care for others during the remainder of their shifts.

Self-care

Nurses spend much of their time tirelessly caring for patients, and oftentimes, this can lead them to overlook their own physical and emotional health. Self-care is the act of preserving your physical and mental health, in part, through activities such as taking a walk with a friend, getting a massage, taking a yoga class, or eating a nutritious meal.

Trish Richardson, RN

However, self-care doesn’t have to be limited to relaxing activities. An act of self-care can also be …read more

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