Compassion, Fatigue, Caregiver Burnout, And Related Issues
Many healthcare providers such as the nurses, doctors, and physiotherapists among other individuals enter healthcare filed with the key objective of helping others and their patients to achieve their positive health outcomes. The healthcare providers give a wide range of services that aim at optimizing the mental, social, spiritual, and physical needs of their patients. However, empathetic health care providers often become the victims of continued stress associated with meeting patients and their significant others needs such as their families. Extreme cases of continued stress results in burnouts and compassion fatigue (Matzo & Sherman, 2010). Compassion fatigue and burnouts affect the health care provider in not only terms of their job satisfaction but also high staff turnover rate and decreased productivity. Such occurrences cost the healthcare systems and the quality of healthcare provided to the clients as it increases the need for the recruitment of more healthcare providers to bridge the gaps (Berne, 2001). The following essay analyzes the concept of compassion fatigue. In specific, the analysis focuses on discussing the warning signs of the five concepts of compassion fatigue, nature of the problem and its causes, and the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of the caregiver. The analysis ends by providing the most-effective coping strategies applicable in preventing and managing compassion fatigue as a caregiver.
According to Matzo and Sherman (2010), compassion fatigue refers to a condition that encompasses emotional, physical, and spiritual depletion that is linked with providing care to patients with significant emotional and physical distress. Read and Parks (2014) defined compassion fatigue as the conditions that arise when the strategies adopted by the caregiver fail to deliver the expected health outcomes resulting in the guilt and distress from to the caregiver. While varying definitions of the term exist, they all converge in the fact that compassion fatigue occurs due to ineffectiveness in the coping mechanisms adopted by the healthcare giver to manage their stress. On the other hand, burnout refers to the syndrome of one's emotional exhaustion, reduced achievement of the desired professional and personal objectives, and depersonalization. Factors such as personality characteristics, work or organizational characteristics, and attitudes related to the workplace have been identified by various researches to contribute to burnouts among the healthcare providers (Read & Parks, 2014).
The causes of compassion fatigue are varied. While compassion fatigue can affect those working with the healthcare providing professions, it can also affect individuals working in any setting or situation. Compassion fatigue affects the running of normal activities of the healthcare system and the quality of care provided significantly. For instance, evidence provided by Berne (2001) showed that the effects of compassion fatigue have resulted in a decrease in the workforce of registered nurses in the U.S. As such, it has predisposed the state to extensive investment in the healthcare sector. Significant evidence provided by Campling and Sharpe (2008) showed that individuals working as psychotherapists underwent countertransference reactions that predispose them to compassion fatigue. In this study, the psychotherapists were found to imitate the symptoms presented by their clients. Excessive exposure to such cases was identified to increase the risk of compassion fatigue. Exposing the healthcare providers to environments that do not recognize their needs results in the syndrome of emotional exhaustion, burnout, decreased personal accomplishment, and depersonalization.
Campling & Sharpe (2008) assert that recurrent exposure of individuals to these situations results in compassion fatigue, therefore, the decline in their productivity. Similarly, empirical evidence holds that a combination of factors such as ambiguous successes, personal isolation, and emotional drain among the healthcare providers contribute to compassion fatigue. Healthcare providers listen to or witness horrific events, trauma, and human cruelty that affect their psychological well-being. Repeated exposure of individuals to these traumatic events results in post-traumatic disorder symptoms that if unresolved early enough causes compassion fatigue. Therefore, it is apparent that a combination of environmental and ineffective coping mechanisms of the caregivers contributes to compassion fatigue significantly (Matzo & Sherman, 2010).
The warning signs of compassion fatigue are varied. Campling and Sharpe (2008) showed that the symptoms of compassion fatigue could be identified by classifying them as somatic, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and interpersonal warning signs. The warning signs under these concepts vary. Matzo and Sherman (2010) showed that an individual going into compassion fatigue would present with cognitive warning signs such as a decrease in their self-worth and self-esteem. They have trouble in focusing on the assigned tasks, thereby, affecting their ability to provide the expected quality of healthcare to the patients. Such individuals will show a decrease in their work performance as evidenced by their absenteeism, decreased motivation, low morale, and negativity. In addition, individuals might show cognitive warning signs such as being preoccupied with the illness or trauma of the patient being provided care by a nurse (Read & Parks, 2014).
In addition, somatic warning signs that might indicate the possibility of a compassionate fatigue include rapid heartbeat, shock, increased cases of medical problems, increase in the cases of interpersonal conflicts, and feelings of shock. These symptoms might affect one's personal relationships, thereby, their social withdrawal and isolation. Emotional symptoms that might signify increased possibility of a compassionate fatigue include one becoming irritated easily, depression, anxiety, guilt, and sense of hopelessness. Moreover, the interpersonal warning signs of a compassionate fatigue include inability of an individual to concentrate, social withdrawal, perfunctory communication, and dehumanizing others in the workplace. Spiritual warning signs of a compassionate fatigue include withdrawal from religious activities and religious conflicts (Read & Parks, 2014).
As any other individuals exposed to significant workplace challenges, healthcare providers require the provision of the environment that recognizes their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Providing the healthcare providers with a safe working environment is imperative. This includes ensuring that the environment provided by the healthcare organization recognizes needs such as free communication between the stakeholders, collaboration, and facilitation of their personal and professional development. Similarly, physical environment entails ensuring that the healthcare providers have adequate rest after work, healthy lifestyles such as exercise and eating, and the environment that motivate them healthcare providers to realize their goals and objectives. In addition, healthcare providers require the provision of an environment that recognizes their emotional needs. Such includes an environment that has characteristics such as minimal stress, provision of counseling services, and collective support provision to individuals under stress. Finally, the environment within the workplace should recognize the spiritual needs of the healthcare providers. Such includes providing them with the freedom of religion and allowing them to share their spiritual experiences among them and their patients (Matzo & Sherman, 2010).
Various coping strategies are effective in promoting the prevention and minimization of compassionate fatigue. The strategies adopted for the management of compassionate fatigue should focus on prevention, minimization of consequences and assessment of the risk factors and vulnerability of individuals to the compassionate fatigue. Among the strategies I would adopt to prevent and manage effectively, compassionate fatigue is establishing a balance between work and life. Achieving a system of balance between work and life needs allow for effective management of crisis before they occur, therefore, eliminating the occurrence of compassionate fatigue and burnouts (Campling & Sharpe, 2008). Similarly, Berne (2001) showed that achieving a system of balance between work and life allows the healthcare providers to invest their time in nurturing themselves and others. The strategy depends on the adoption of strategies such as drawing a self-care plan that will guide in the activities I would be doing in a day.
I would also strive to acquire more knowledge on strategies considered effective in the management of compassionate fatigue and burnout. This will be possible using strategies such as seeking further education on the basics of compassionate fatigue management such as effective stress management, proper communication, and conflict resolution skills.…