Are you Compassion Fatigued or Burnt Out?

design(1)Are you Compassion Fatigued or Burnt Out? By: Vidette Todaro-Franceschi, RN, PhD, FT
Many nurses (and other carers) are compassion fatigued or burnt out and are not aware of it. Do you frequently feel sad or heart heavy? Or do you find that you do not look forward to work-actually dread it, or seem to care less about things you used to care much about? If you feel either way, chances are good that you are suffering from one of these syndromes. Compassion fatigue is essentially when you co-suffer with others to the point that it is hurting you. On the other hand, burnout is when you flick off a switch and no longer seem to care at all. What can you do if you are suffering from one of these syndromes? I created an easy to apply mindfulness model called “ART” to assist carers to enhance their quality of life. “ART” is an acronym for acknowledging feelings, recognizing choices and taking purposeful action, and finally turning towards self and others to reconnect and maintain connection.

Try applying the ART model:

A-How do you feel as you go about your work day? Are you feeling tired, fatigued, stressed, sad, or alternatively happy? Do you find that you jog out the door at the end of the day and yet feel drained and unable to appreciate other aspects of your life?

R-Recognize and reflect upon your options. What can you choose to do to make things better in your workplace? Can you sit with leadership to discuss ways to improve the environment? Can you garner the support of co-workers to try to implement needed changes? Perhaps a change of shift or unit is needed…or maybe even a change in workplace! Whatever choices you identify, you must then purposefully go about making the needed changes. If you choose to do nothing, remember, that is still a choice that you are making.

T-How can you reconnect with yourself and others? Start small. Consider making time to do something good for yourself. Get outside in nature and make time to see things you normally wouldn’t see. While at work, find the time for that lunch break-insist on taking it. If you feel guilty doing it (and sadly many nurses do)—try going into a patient’s room and sitting with him/her for 15 minutes. Pick a patient who seems to need someone to listen—you know that chatty patient that always tries to keep you in the room longer than you can stay? Or maybe the patient who has just been diagnosed with cancer? That patient would surely appreciate someone taking the time to just be present with him or her. When you go home at the end of the day, find the time to treat yourself well and be sure to reconnect with loved ones.

Practicing mindful awareness as you go about your work day and applying the ART model on a regular basis can assist you to enhance your professional and personal quality of life. For more info check out:

Todaro-Franceschi, V. (2013). Compassion fatigue and burnout in nursing: Enhancing professional quality of life. New York: Springer.

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