According to the Oxford Dictionary, compassion fatigue is “indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals.” In other words, it is the state of physical and mental exhaustion resulting from helping, or wanting to help, those who are suffering–or those who have experienced some type of trauma. Compassion fatigue in nurses is a very real condition that can manifest itself in many different ways. Below we will discuss some of the most common symptoms of this condition and how to deal with them in a healthy way, so you can continue to provide exceptional care to the patients that count on you.

Signs of Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is far-reaching and can touch those in a wide range of professions. It is most common for professionals in the legal and medical fields to experience it. This is because such professionals are trying to help people in difficult, traumatic or dangerous situations. Those in the nursing field are particularly susceptible to compassion fatigue due to their close proximity to sickness and suffering on a daily basis. 

A dialysis nurse is in a unique position because the nature of the job is monotonous in caring for dialysis patients, who would otherwise be considered terminal. Therefore, it is normal it affects nurses to some degree. Especially due to the difficult things nurses experience in caring for their patients. However, this becomes a case of possible compassion fatigue when those struggles start to become overwhelming, or even interfere with daily activities and responsibilities. Here is a list of some of the most common red flags to be aware of:

  1. Mood swings: Any drastic shift in typical moods can be a sign of compassion fatigue. Oftentimes, people with compassion fatigue may report angry outbursts and a sudden shift to a negative outlook.
  2. Detachment: A sudden disinterest in creating social relationships or a disconnect in current relationships with friends and family is a warning sign. Withdrawing socially and/or becoming more reclusive can be cause for concern.
  3. Insomnia: Trouble sleeping has been linked to those suffering from compassion fatigue. Along with this, a host of other physical symptoms can appear, such as loss of appetite, digestive issues, and headaches. 

Avoiding Compassion Fatigue

So, how can nurses at risk for compassion fatigue mitigate their circumstances to avoid falling victim to this condition? Experts tend to agree that self-care is one of the most important outlets for those in the medical field. Furthermore, self-care can take many different forms. For example, it can be either self-care rituals, therapy, or medication. Some common examples of self-care include:

  1. Regular exercise: This can be as simple as taking a 20-minute walk or bike ride outside where the sights, sounds and smells of nature can relax your mind and body. Scientific evidence backs up the physical and mental benefits of being active on a daily basis.
  2. Pamper yourself: Never underestimate the power of lighting some aromatic candles, playing some soft music, and taking a warm bath. If your pocketbook can swing it, opt for investing in regular massage therapy sessions. Likewise, it may help to visit a bodywork specialist. Either of these can do wonders for physical and mental health.
  3. Meditation: Slowing down and practicing mindfulness will be super beneficial to your overall wellness, especially in protecting you from compassion fatigue. Deep breathing and making a mind/body connection will help you get centered. 

Do you love being a nurse but struggle with the everyday difficulties that come with caring for patients? Do you worry about developing compassion fatigue? We at New Direction Staffing challenge you to make it a priority to engage in regular self-care activities to be the best nurse that you can be! For more resourcing on succeeding in any nursing role, visit our website today.

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