Combating Compassion Fatigue

Table of Contents


Studies have established that the health care industry ranks among the top fields where professionals have high demanding jobs. Providing care for patients is quite a tiresome job that requires one to be physically, mentally and emotionally strong. Experts argue that all health care workers should adapt a healthier lifestyle that allows them to give their best output and avoid health complications due to the nature of their work (Gail, 2004).

Professionals working in the health care industry have an ethical responsibility of ensuring that every patient receives the best care. This means that caregivers in the health care industry should look after their welfare in the same manner they do for their patients. Experts argue that it is not possible for a patient to receive quality care from a professional in an unstable mental or physical condition.

Experts argue that health care providers who concentrate too much with providing care to their patients and neglecting their own welfare often suffer from a physical condition called compassion fatigue (Gail, 2004). It is a disorder related to the ability of health care workers to understand and evaluate the feelings of their patients.

The condition entails a situation where a caregiver lowers the level of compassion towards their patient. The caregivers experience burnout, as well as developing an attachment with their patients and the problems they go through (McLain, 2008). Experts argue that all health care professionals should ensure that they take their time to combat this disorder as soon as signs and symptoms start to show.

Warning signs for the various concepts of compassion fatigue

According to experts, all health care professionals have a responsibility to ensure that they familiarize with the numerous concepts of compassion fatigue, their symptoms, and the best ways of combating them. Studies have established that there are five concepts of compassion fatigue, namely cognitive, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, and somatic (Gail, 2004).

In addition, each concept has its own signs and symptoms that indicate when a caregiver is suffering from this disorder. The cognitive concept entails the psychological results of perception, learning, and reasoning by a caregiver. Some of the notable symptoms of this concept include boredom, inflexibility, low self-worth, lack of deliberation, minimization, obsession with distress, and bafflement among others (McLain, 2008).

The emotional concept of compassion fatigue entails any strong feelings by caregivers that are influenced by their patient and the pain they endure. Some notable symptoms of this concept include irritation, culpability, and a lack of sensation (Gail, 2004). Others include apprehension, wretchedness, sadness, and incapacity.

The behavioral concept of compassion fatigue entails, the way in which caregivers control themselves, as well as the reaction and attitude towards their patients. Some of the notable signs include rudeness, cruel comments, insubordination, drug abuse, absenteeism, impaired judgments, and avoidance among others (McLain, 2008).

The spiritual concept of compassion fatigue entails the manner in which offering compassion to patients affects the ability of a caregiver to value religion. Some of the notable symptoms of this concept include a lack of hope, faith, and disbelieve in divine power (Figley, 2013).

The final concept of compassion fatigue is somatic, which entails body changes that caregivers undergo in contrast with their mental states. Some of the notable symptoms of this concept include loss of body weight, poor hygiene, overeating, and change of dressing style (Gail, 2004). Others include impaired hearing, fainting, and emotional instability.

Nature of the problems and their causes

Health care professionals such as nurses, psychologists, and first aid workers often deal with patients suffering trauma, depression, or any other kind of pain. Providing care to such kind of individuals can be very stressful for the caregivers. This happens if they fail to work on their own well being by either taking a rest or exercising (Mathieu, 2012).

Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout are some of the problems that professionals working in the health care industry deal with in their workplaces. These problems often lead to cognitive, behavioral, emotional, somatic, and spiritual effects on them (Figley, 2013). Studies have established that close to 90% of all emergency workers and health care professionals tend to suffer compassion fatigue if they get too much exposure to distressing scenarios without any form of intervention or management strategies (McLain, 2008).

Experts argue that compassion fatigue and burnout are problems that arise when nurses and other health care professionals use most of their time taking care of patients and end up lacking time to work on their own welfare. This affects crucial elements of the professional’s work such as the motivation to work, productivity, workplace relationships, and mental stability (Figley, 2013).

In most cases, health care workers suffering from this disorder often transfer their work problems to their families. In a study to examine the severity of this condition on various types of caregivers in the health care industry, more than 90% of the respondents admitted to having a difficult family life due to challenges at work (Mathieu, 2012).

This disorder was first identified among health care professionals in the mid 20th Century. The affected professionals showed numerous signs and symptoms. Some of the most notable symptoms among caregivers include high vulnerability to illness, anger, and irritability. Others include absenteeism from work, attrition, emotional drain, and depression (Mathieu, 2012).

Over the years, numerous concepts have been developed in regard to this disorder, the nature of its associated problems, and the best coping strategies for caregivers who are diagnosed with the condition.

Experts argue that several factors such as the character of a patient, the nature of the patient’s condition, as well as the physical and mental states of a caregiver can contribute to the development of this disorder (McLain, 2008). In most cases, neglect by the caregiver over the condition of his or her physical and mental state is the main causative factor. Professionals working in the health care industry should have a high degree of self awareness that allows them to know when a break or change in routine is necessary.

Physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the caregiver

Studies have established that caregivers in the health care industry have certain needs that need to be met in order to avoid suffering from this disorder. Experts argue that meeting those needs helps to reduce the vulnerability of health care professionals to the effects of the same trauma experienced by their patients (Figley, 2013).

Some of the physical needs of caregivers include regular exercise, changing their workplace environment on a regular basis, team building events with colleagues, participating in sport activities, and taking nature walks.

Experts argue that physical engagements for caregivers play a crucial role in distracting their minds from the trauma stories they handle on a daily basis. In addition, physical activities help caregivers to have body fitness that is essential in managing stress and fatigue. Emotional needs for caregivers include counseling, good workplace relations, constant laughter, focus groups, and regular exercise (Reese, 2008).

Experts argue that caregivers need to have colleagues who understand and treat them well. This also includes having colleagues who can make them laugh and offer constant encouragement, especially when they are dealing with special patients. Focus or peer groups also help caregivers because they provide an opportunity to share experiences, as well as getting advice and encouragement (Figley, 2013).

Counseling is also crucial for caregivers because it helps them in managing the effects of work related stress. Some of the spiritual needs of caregivers include having a connection between the body, mind, and the spirit. Health care professionals need to build their spirituality, which helps to give a transcendent meaning to life (McLain, 2008). Experts argue that caregivers can only attend to their patients effectively if they know the value of life and show concern towards sacred matters.

Coping strategies and resources for caregivers

Experts argue that caregivers should have a good sense of self awareness in order to combat compassion fatigue (Reese, 2008). Caregivers can apply a number of strategies in order to address combat fatigue. First, they can do a lot of exercise as a way of increasing productivity and achieving fitness. The exercise gives caregivers crucial mental and physical benefits that are essential for doing their work. Second, caregivers should try to have a personal life that is different from their professional work (Figley, 2013).

Experts argue that having a personal life is crucial for caregivers because it helps them to have different experiences that can relieve the distress suffered in the workplace. Having limits between work and family related activities is crucial for caregivers. Other coping strategies that caregivers can use to combat compassion fatigue include developing a sense of humor, as well as creating broad professional and social networks (Reese, 2008).


Figley, C. R. (2013). Compassion Fatigue: Coping with Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in those who treat the Traumatized. New Jersey: Routledge.

Gail, L. (2004). Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion. California: Psychological Press.

Mathieu, F. (2012). The Compassion Fatigue Workbook: Creative Tools for Transforming Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious. New Jersey: Routledge.

McLain, K. B. (2008). The Impact of Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Compassion Satisfaction on Foster Parenting. New York: Pro Quest.

Reese, M. (2008). Compassion Fatigue and Spirituality with Emergency Health Care Providers. New York: Pro Quest.

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