Compassion Fatigue or ‘Burnout’ — What You Need To Know

by Tera Tuten on July 9, 2013

Helping employees find a proper work-life balance used to be a top priority for many healthcare facilities. When the economic downturn took its toll, more and more employee issues have become negligible. Nurses and other health care providers are being asked to do more with less. The price to pay for this ‘economic’ new way of caring can range from exhaustion to complete burnout, and, ultimately, compassion fatigue.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

compassion fatigue Coined as ‘secondary traumatic stress’ and often referred to as ‘burnout,’  compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by a gradual  lessening of compassion over time. ¹ Simply put, it is a detrimental consequence of ‘caring too much.’ Symptoms include self-neglect, suppression of emotions, apathy, isolation, and even drug abuse.

Taking too many responsibilities and working too many hours are two ways that can lead nurses and other health care professionals down the road to compassion fatigue. Coupled with difficult-to-handle and emotionally taxing situations, people undergoing compassion fatigue are in no condition to be able to perform their daily tasks properly.

Many facilities have developed their own ways of dealing with compassion fatigue. One such facility offers extensive training, flexible scheduling, and team meetings during which clinicians can share their challenges and find hope in communication. Another has created a ‘centering space,’ a dedicated place for praying, meditating, or releasing negative thoughts before shifts or after stressful moments. For people who don’t have such resources yet, there are several ways to overcome compassion fatigue starting with the self.

Compassion Fatigue Coping Mechanisms:

  1. Read/watch/remember something that makes you laugh. Or talk with someone who makes you laugh. Just laugh.
  2. Take care of yourself.
  3. Choose your battles.
  4. Adopt a positive attitude.

Think you’ve got the case? Assess your risk for Compassion fatigue using this simple test:

There are many things you can do to overcome Compassion fatigue. Start by reviewing the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project at





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