Compassion Fatigue is Real

What happens when caregivers have nothing left to give?

Compassion fatigue, often called the negative cost of caring, has been around as long as human challenges have been around.  The simple definition of compassion fatigue is burnout. This specific type of burnout can be difficult to recognize because the work still gets done, patients are still cared for, but the provider may be physically and emotionally exhausted and unable to maintain healthy boundaries, with potentially harmful effects.

PyxisCare’s entire purpose is based on the ability to extend compassion though any and all situations – whether preparing for a long and healthy future, in crisis in the emergency room, managing chronic conditions for optimal living or preparing for end of life. In fact, I’ve written several times about the impact of caregiving on those of us taking care of aging parents, children, and other loved ones as they go through health and other challenges.

The Stakes are Higher Than Ever

Today, however, the stakes are higher than ever.  Compassion fatigue is personal and can cause depression, exhaustion, traumatic stress and a dulling of one’s ability to empathize with others.  Devastating for the people in your life.

Now, think about the massive and widespread effects of compassion fatigue on our health professionals – nurses, techs, counselors, therapists, doctors, and others who work in hospitals, clinics and places that provide care services.

Some areas of the country went into the pandemic with too few doctors, and now we are  nearing a nursing staffing crisis with overburdened hospitals and too few nurses and techs to support patients.  There are several extreme examples of this:

  • Oregon’s governor recently ordered 1500 National Guard troops to help hospital staff in the state.
  • A Florida county that’s urging residents to “consider other options” before calling 911.
  • Mississippi has 2,000 fewer nurses in 2021 than it did in 2020 and their only Level 1 trauma unit has been setting up a field hospital in a parking garage.
  • Many hospitals are deferring even critical surgeries and others have empty beds for lack of staffing.                                                                            *Source New York Times

Don’t Panic, But Do Your Part

I don’t say these things to cause panic. But this grim reality is something that we should all be aware of as we make our healthcare decisions and try for live longer, healthier lives. Think of it when you make your decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine or not. Think of it before you lose your temper because of a long wait in the Emergency Room or at your clinic. And if you know a nurse or healthcare provider, be there to support them and watch for signs they are struggling with workload and stress. Gratitude isn’t enough to protect them from an overwhelming sense of responsibility as they deal with a crisis that has lasted for 18 months and shows few signs of slowing. But gratitude is a good start.