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Combating Compassion Fatigue - Essay Example

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Name: Title: Course: Tutor: Date: Combating Compassion Fatigue Introduction Caregivers engage in a myriad of care-related activities and would thus be expected to show compassion everyday in their engagements with patients. In their sustenance and emotional balance in dealing with patients’ despair and their hopefulness at the same time, caregivers need some complex emotions known as compassion (Mathieu, 2012)…
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Combating Compassion Fatigue
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Combating Compassion Fatigue

Download file to see previous pages... Adopting the definition by C. Figley, Sabo (2011) defines compassion fatigue as “natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other – the stress resulting from helping, or wanting to help, a traumatized or suffering person.” The suffering and trauma experienced by the patient would trigger a response on varied levels in the caregiver thus varied empathy and engagement abilities with theorists arguing on individuals possessing high empathic response and empathy levels to the pain, traumatic experience and suffering of patients as being more vulnerable (Bush, 2009). From the inception of the term compassion fatigue, it has been widely associated with burnout, not only from the workplace negative environmental stressors but also from the physical and emotional needs of the patients which contribute to the caregivers’ anger, depression, tiredness and ineffectiveness. With a long term exposure to loss and trauma, caregivers would begin integrating their patients’ grief, fear and emotions which would increase their own emotional pain and stress. The theory behind vicarious trauma postulates that such exposure to trauma changes the caregiver’s perspective or cognitive schema with regard to life issues like control, self esteem and intimacy. Secondary traumatic stress would incorporate both vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue due to empathic engagement with the resultant behaviors and emotions resulting in acute stress disorder. Bush (2009) differentiates these noting that burnout involves emotional exhaustion, vicarious trauma involves cognitive schema changes and compassion fatigue involves loss of self. Warning Signs Although the symptoms associated with compassion fatigue vary from one caregiver to another, there are red flags that indicate its existence. Considering the five concepts associated with compassion fatigue, first, the cognitive symptoms would include lowered concentration, rigidity, disorientation, preoccupation with trauma, minimization and apathy. Secondly, warning signs in relation to emotional consideration would encompass fear, numbness, anger, guilt, anxiety, powerlessness, hopelessness, depression, sadness, shock, troubling dreams experience and enhanced or blunted affect. Behaviorally, caregivers faced with compassion fatigue would be irritable, moody and withdrawn and would experience poor sleep, change of appetite, hyper-vigilance and nightmares. Those affected spiritually would question the meaning of life, lose purpose, question religious beliefs, lose faith and lose purpose. Finally, the somatic symptoms associated with compassion fatigue encompass sweating, breathing difficulty, pains and aches, rapid heartbeat, headaches, impaired immune system and difficulty in staying or falling asleep (Mathieu, 2012). Nature of Problems and their Causes Working environment has been widely referenced as a key contributor to compassion fatigue. Prolonged exposure to environments presenting stressors including lack of colleague and administrative support and understaffing would keep caregivers under a situation of constant isolation and alertness which eventually causes mental and physical exhaustion. Interestingly, Bush (2009) ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Combating Compassion Fatigue
They affect the workplace in terms of absenteeism, apathy, low morale, and decreased motivation. However, it is important to note that individuals suffering from compassion fatigue usually love their jobs. Compassion fatigue and burnout symptoms are divided into five major categories and they include cognitive, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, and somatic.
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Compassion fatigue is a problem in the nursing profession. It encompasses job stress and burnout, which are lessor forms of compassion fatigue. Job stress is stress that is experienced for a short period of time, and burnout is job stress which occurs over an extended period of time.
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This is usually accompanied by emotional pain where the caregiver becomes less empathetic (Figley, 2002). Some physical signs include muscle tension, digestive problems, headaches and chest pain. Emotional symptoms of compassion fatigue include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, oversensitivity, depression, anger, restlessness and poor concentration (Thomas & Wilson, 85).
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