A growing number of nurses say they’re getting tired of feeling compassionate. The trend has a name. Experts call it “compassion fatigue.” That’s the term for the stress and burnout that many nurses feel after being bombarded with life-and-death situations every day. It’s like a soldier in battle – death becomes part of the job, not a unique circumstance that deserves special care and treatment. And in a new study, more than 1-in-4 nurses said compassion fatigue is the reason they called in sick to work!
Experts say the problem’s especially common in hospital cancer centers, where nurses don’t always have time to cope with the emotions of dying patients. When that happens, experts say nurses are more likely to dread or avoid certain patients, or treat people rudely, because they don’t want to face hearing more talk about death. And as you might expect, that kind of treatment has been linked to higher death rates in patients.
That’s why the American Nurses Association has made compassion fatigue a top priority this year and they’re encouraging more hospitals to help nurses recognize, manage, and stop the problem.
For example: Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis recently started a pilot program that offers stress-reduction workshops, staff retreats, and special group discussions that teach nurses how to handle difficult patients. The program is designed to remind nurses of the reason they got into health care in the first place – to help people.