Compassion Fatigue: Do You Care?

Compassion Fatigue is often referred to as “Burnout” and is characteristically described as physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion that a person experiences that causes a decrease in his or her ability to enjoy their life and/or career. It is often experienced by health care workers as well as those taking care of a loved one at home. The caregiver begins to believe that the situation is hopeless and that it will be endless.

Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue:

*Lack of a vision for the future
*Reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy
*Anger and irritability
*Dread of working with certain clients/patients
*Diminished sense of enjoyment of career
*Excessive blaming
*Mentally and physically tired/exhaustion
*Difficulty concentrating/ preoccupied
*Inability of teams to work together
*Desire among staff members to break company rules
*Strong reluctance towards change
*Inability of staff to respect and meet deadlines
*Outbreaks of aggressive behavior among staff
*Negativism towards management
*Inability of staff to believe improvement is possible
All of these are signs of Compassion Fatigue or burnout.

Most often the caregiver in the health care setting is bombarded with such things as:
*Patient Rights
*HIPPA Confidentiality Laws
*Watch Dog Agency Benchmark Expectations
*Institutional Policies Enforcement
*Patient Complaint Feedback
*Infection Control Issues
*Medical Records and Charting Issues
*Institutional Reimbursement Issues

Essentially institutions have to show that they followed up with employees on anything that is below the expectations of the public as well as their administration. There are such numerous expectations that the caregiver feels beaten down and a pat on the back for a job well done is rare.
The time and energy of administration MUST be spent looking at the “numbers” and actively managing them. It is more realistic for caregivers to get encouragement and support from their co-workers in their immediate area. By focusing on holistically taking care of their own health as well as supporting coworkers in their immediate area health care employees can maintain a balanced life and career and experience less Compassion Fatigue or even avoid it altogether.

Caregivers in the home setting are surrounded by the expectations of the patient as well as others in the immediate environment or situation such as family members. The shock of caring for someone at home often creates a dysfunctional venue for codependent personalities as well as controlling ones. The advent of chronic illness or death brings out numerous emotions that are rarely dealt with in a healthy way because of the lack of time. Everyone is determined to focus on the patient and some may even believe it selfish should one speak up and say they need help. This always has the potential to be a somewhat volatile situation. The solution is for the caregivers and loved ones to treat themselves holistically and maintain the balance of mind, body, and spirit to remain healthy. There must be a reasonable plan for care for the patient by all involved as well as a plan for each person to step away to re-energize and take care of themselves.

Billings Professional Coordinators (BPC) will show you how to deal with burnout with our Compassion Fatigue and You Seminars and Lunchtime Learning Opportunities. Common programs or resources often try to do this as a whole and don’t consider the individual. We want to recognize that each person finds solutions in their own way. To combat Compassion Fatigue each caregiver must find what works for them and what makes them healthy and resilient. There is no “canned” fix for burnout.