If you’re a working nurse, or a BSN student just starting out, you should be aware of the toll your career can take on your emotional and physical health. Stress and physical fatigue are often mentioned in discussions about working too hard in the health industry. However, there’s a particular kind of fatigue all care givers should be aware of: compassion fatigue. Think you have it? Then there’s a very high chance that you do. Compassion fatigue is what it sounds like, chronic (emotional and physical) stressing resulting from giving care.
In fact, people who are attracted to care giving often enter the field may already be compassion fatigued. Leading traumatologist Eric Gentry explains that this is possibly because of a strong identification with helpless, suffering, or traumatized people or animals. These people have been taught to care for the needs of others before caring for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care is absent from their lives.
Every day, healthcare workers struggle to provide care to others in difficult environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Over time, the mission of every sincere care giver – affecting positive change in society – becomes perceived as elusive, if not impossible. Workers often accept this as a painful reality. This, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society’s flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone working to support their patients. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.
The first step in coping of course, is awareness. A heightened awareness can lead to insights regarding past traumas and painful situations that are being relived over and over within the confines of your symptoms and behaviors.
CompassionFatigue.org states that accepting the presence of compassion fatigue in your life only serves to validate the fact that you are a deeply caring individual. Somewhere along your healing path, the truth will present itself: You don’t have to make a choice. It is possible to practice healthy, ongoing self-care while successfully continuing to care for others.