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Minimizing Compassion Fatigue

Minimizing Compassion Fatigue

My father passed away, my oldest son was deployed to Iraq, my young next door neighbor was diagnosed with lung cancer (also she was my husbands first husband), and I was by her side when she died and she left two young children, my father in law died unexpectedly, the secretary who had been with me for seven years found a new job that paid what I couldn’t match and left, I hired the secretary from hell who I ended up being my first and only firing, and the main chemo nurse in the clinic was gone on a moments notice one week before my daughter’s wedding for her daughter to have a liver transplant. I was unable to fill that position for six months due to the FMLA regulations, and worked the floor myself as I trained others to fill in.

This all happened within a year. When this all settled down, about a year later, I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even recognize what state I was in until I met myself in a psychology book my daughter had which described stages of burnout and compassion fatigue. I pretty much had every symptom in all three stages. I decided one day, I had choices, and it was time to take care of me. I quickly found a position that was less stressful, and well, although I really miss the people in the clinic, I know I made the best decision for me and them.

Move several years forward. Today I am realizing many people live in a state of burnout. Especially nurses and caregivers. If you find yourself in this state there are many things you can do. First, most large employers have mental health counseling you can tap into for free. I think feelings of shame prevented me from tapping into this wonderful resource. I may have made the same decision to change scenery, but I may have healed faster by talking to someone else about my feelings of overwhelm.

You made need a change of scenery. As a nurse, you may need to evaluate where you are, and really ask yourself is your current situation where you want to stay? As a mom, or caregiver of a sick loved one, you can’t change the scenery, so you need to evaluate your self care. Whether you are a nurse or caregiver you need to find someone you can connect with. Find a coach, counselor, or mentor who can help you wade through the “stuff” and help you weigh your options. You are the expert in your care. I find that you are creative, resourceful and whole. You just may need to see yourself that way.

Take time for your physical well being. How are you eating? Are you eating nutritious, well balanced meals? Are you taking your supplements? Are you moving everyday in some way other than walking from room to room, or kitchen to couch? Do you take time for meditation and quiet? How about listening to spa type of music? Any area of neglect does impact all other areas.

The best way to avoid complete burnout is to pick up on the symptoms as they are just starting, rather than to wait until you are in a full burn out mode. Talking this over with someone in the same situation may not be the way to go. Find someone who can add to you instead of enable you in this area. I now recognize when I am heading in this direction and takes steps to turn it around. Make sure you are allowing times for play, or times away from work or give yourself a break from the care of your loved one. If you are caring for a loved one, there are respite services available in many cases to give you a little break.

Next: Dealing With Compassion Fatigue >>

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