By law, we are to be given a thirty minute lunch (un-interrupted) and two fifteen minute breaks on a shift. You need skills for dealing with them.”. How can you assist in the healing of others, if you yourself are lacking? When you take on the pain and suffering of all your patients, you are not refilling your tank, merely draining it. “Taking breaks is important,” says Hoyle. When this feels impossible, it can be helpful to step away for a moment. It can happen gradually, too. It helps to make sure you view every patient as an individual with a unique set of symptoms or problems. Below are some tried and true suggestions for recovering from compassion fatigue that can also be used as preventative measures once you have regained your caring and compassionate nature. You just need to know how to address it. The point is, you can do everything you can for each and every patient…in fact, you should. Because issues like compassion fatigue are so prevalent, you can find tips on dealing with them through your nursing education. “It can be a protective factor against compassion fatigue, so those with higher resiliency are better able to prevent compassion fatigue. Be present, and do what you can while you are there, but don’t fret over not being able to solve every ill. Retired nurse Tammy Hoyle says that compassion fatigue is definitely a risk for nurses, especially those that work in positions that involve long-term relationships with patients or end-of-life care. They must be able to listen to patients and feel for them without being affected to the point where it influences them personally. To feel for your patients, in whatever way you can, can be a transcendent and deeply healing experience. Once you’ve had a day to rest, put in your request for an actual scheduled break. Try to avoid people who are excessively needy and drain your energy. Now, realize that there are people that you are going to naturally ‘vibe’ or connect with in such a way that it is going to be like filling up with the highest grade gasoline you could. Put your own self first. Nurses and healthcare professionals work incredibly hard. Now. Conversely, just as we use over-head lifts and turning sheets to prevent back strain, we can use tools to prevent the mental and emotional strain that can come from repeated over-use of the heart, mind and spirit. Have a charge nurse watch your patients (or follow the specific protocol in your facility) and take time sit in the break room to eat and relax. With diligent effort and dedication, even the most overworked healthcare professionals can avoid experiencing this condition. Engaging in an activity that takes the focus away from work can allow healthcare professionals to focus on their own health and well-being. Nonjudgmental friends and licensed therapists offer a listening ear when you need it the most. “You need a break from the work and sometimes from the situation. Conveniently, the methods for recovering from compassion fatigue are quite similar to the means of preventing it in the first place. But somewhere along the road, you will need to begin to exercise discernment regarding how much empathy you are able to give to each person you come across. If you will accept that discernment now, it is yours, and it is your safety equipment for protecting your heart and mind as a nurse. Remember those NANDA approved Nursing Diagnoses? You stop to assess yourself and you ask, “What do I feel?”. If you learn to manage your emotional reservoir, you’ll be able to provide more than enough sympathetic care to your patients, family and friends. If you keep pushing yourself at this point, it is likely to get worse. If you don’t, your body and mind just might decide to go on vacation without planning. But let me offer the following recommendation as well, which I consider to be the number one way to take care of both yourself and your patients–without falling into compassion fatigue, and while maintaining the highest level of care–the care that naturally resides within your heart and mind. This doesn’t need to be an actual vacation, which can be stressful in and of itself, but should be a break from caregiving. Now do it. Keeping your personal life and your professional life separate and maintaining this balance can go along way toward helping you stave off the effects of compassion fatigue. The amount of compassion it would take to persuade this person to glimpse the depths that you have already gone to, and would go to, for them, can leave you with an empty gauge. Because compassion allows nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, and even technicians to empathize with and understand their patients, it’s of utmost importance to understand “compassion fatigue” — and to learn how you can guard against it. This can ultimately lead to no longer caring about the needs of patients. It becomes easier to abstract the patient who keeps hitting the call button, the family asking for updates, or even an aide taking a long time to finish a task. Maybe, if I am simply silent and listen, there will be a way that I can provide empathy without draining my own compassion tank to empty.”. Compassion is an important component of any caregiver’s role, and it’s one of the most sought-after traits that anyone hiring a healthcare professional seeks. Doing so will not lessen their pain, and it can only lead to more compassion fatigue for you. 1. Your friends have a huge impact on your life, so choose them wisely. However, it is important to be cognizant of the difference between empathy and sympathy with your patients; the difference is the key that prevents you from making the compassion killing mistake of taking their pain and suffering as your own. Setting boundaries, acknowledging when you can’t solve every problem for every patient, and letting go of that burden will naturally allow you to infuse compassion and empathy into other interactions–most importantly into interactions with yourself. You feel blank going into the exchange and blank coming out of it.
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