Most nurses enter the field of nursing with the intent to help others and provide empathetic care for patients with critical physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Empathic and caring nurses, however, can become victims of the continuing stress of meeting the often overwhelming needs of patients and their families, resulting in compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue affects not only the nurse in terms of job satisfaction and emotional and physical health, but also the workplace environment by decreasing productivity and increasing turnover.
We begin this article with a case study of a reactive nurse who did not seek help for her continuing stress. This is followed by a review of Watson’s theoretical perspective related to compassion fatigue. Next we delineate symptoms of, and describe interventions for addressing compassion fatigue. We conclude by presenting a case study of a proactive nurse who avoided developing compassion fatigue and a discussion of future research needed to better prevent and ameliorate compassion fatigue.
Barbara Lombardo, RN, MSN, PMHCNS-BC, Caryl Eyre, RN, MSN
Lombardo, B., Eyre, C., (Jan 31, 2011) “Compassion Fatigue: A Nurse’s Primer” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 16, No. 1, Manuscript 3.