Nurses and other healthcare workers are often compassionate people. To care for patients who are sick or injured takes a certain type of personality and a desire to help people. But even nurses who have the best intentions can find themselves developing compassion fatigue.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is the emotional exhaustion that can develop after chronic stress from caring for ill patients. Nurses in certain specialties may have higher incidences of compassion fatigue. The Journal of Emergency Nursing reported about 80% of ED nurses had some degree of compassion fatigue at some point in their career. Regardless of where they work, though, any nurse can develop compassion fatigue.
Travel nurses may be especially at risk for compassion fatigue. When you work as a travel nurse, you have great opportunities to meet new people and see the country. But you may not have as many long-term relationships with coworkers, so it might be harder to lean on someone when you have the need.
Nurse travelers are not just dealing with the stress of work, but they are also adjusting to a new city and are away from their family and friends. Although it can be exciting, working as a traveler can also have its challenges. The bottom line is whether you work as a nurse traveler or have a permanent position, compassion fatigue can affect any nurse.
Signs of Compassion Fatigue
There are several signs of compassion fatigue that may develop including:
- Isolating yourself
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Compulsive behaviors, such as excess alcohol use, substance abuse, or overeating
- Loss of empathy
Preventing Compassion Fatigue
If you work as a travel nurse, it’s important to be aware of the signs of compassion fatigue. There are also steps you can take to prevent it from developing.
Consider breaks in-between assignments: Going from one 13-week assignment to another can be tough. If you are starting to feel stressed, consider taking a few weeks off between assignments. Talk to your recruiter and let them know how long you would like to wait before accepting another job.
Exercise: A great way to combat stress and prevent being overwhelmed with work is by exercising. Exercising is a natural way to reduce stress and improve mood. Plus, it will help you maintain a healthy weight as you try all the popular restaurants in your new city!
Attend a retreat: Retreats are available for healthcare workers, and some focus specifically on nurses. Retreats can provide tips for dealing with stress, learning to relax, and coping with tragic situations you may deal with on a regular basis. Retreats can last from a weekend to a week or two. They often combine educational workshops with fun activities, such as boating, horseback riding, and hiking.
Seek professional help: If you’re starting to have signs of compassion fatigue, don’t put off getting help. Bottling your emotions does not help the situation. You can only bury your feelings for so long before the problem gets worse. Consider talking to a counselor or your healthcare provider.