Top Tips For Overcoming Compassion Fatigue As A Nurse

Nursing can be a tough career at times. You have to deal with emotionally challenging situations on a regular basis, providing empathetic care to patients and their loved ones at difficult times in their lives. It’s no surprise that this can take a toll on your wellbeing, for example, in the form of stress or burnout. One particularly difficult issue to be aware of is compassion fatigue. Keep reading to find out more about this condition and how to overcome it.

What is compassion fatigue?

nurse-burnout-healthcareCompassion fatigue is when you are exposed to suffering, trauma, or similar negative emotional states in others so much that you become desensitized and indifferent to it. You may also hear it referred to as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, with many arguing that it’s an inevitable response.

Whichever name you use, it’s a condition in which you feel physically and psychologically exhausted, resulting in a diminished capacity for empathy. This, in turn, has a negative impact on your ability to do your job as a nurse.

Sadly, compassion fatigue is not uncommon in the healthcare field, which is why it’s so important to be alert to the symptoms and understand how to respond when they arise.

What are the signs of compassion fatigue?

There are a multitude of different signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue, many of which are similar to those of more general burnout. Some of the main factors to look out for include the following:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Decline in morale
  • Disturbed sleep or insomnia
  • A feeling of isolation
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • A loss of self-esteem or self-worth
  • Decreased cognitive abilities, such as a lack of concentration
  • Irritability or anger
  • Increased anxiety or sadness
  • Feeling detached and numb
  • A lack of interest in hobbies and other activities you used to enjoy
  • Reduced empathy
  • Finding it hard to switch off and relax
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed by your nursing work
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea

How can I overcome compassion fatigue?

Fortunately, compassion fatigue is much more widely acknowledged and discussed these days, which in turn has led to more information on strategies for overcoming it. Create a support network. If you’re currently working, this could be a group of your nursing colleagues, or if you study nursing online with the University of Indianapolis it could be your fellow students.

Here are some of the other most effective suggestions to try:

  • Set aside regular time for self-care. This could be doing five minutes of meditation a day, going for a walk in nature, joining a yoga class, or taking a long hot bath
  • Keep a journal as a way to both be aware of your emotions and work through any negative feelings you may be experiencing
  • When you find that you are feeling anxious or stressed, do a quick breathing exercise to slow your heart rate
  • Take care of your physical health by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of good-quality sleep
  • Avoid overworking, and make sure that you make use of your annual leave
  • Spend quality time with friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Talk to a counselor or other professional if you are struggling to cope on your own

The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition.
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