June 2017: Compassion Fatigue: Can it happen to you?

tirednurse2Compassion Fatigue: Can it happen to you?

According to a study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing, anywhere from 15 to 85 percent of healthcare workers develop compassion fatigue at some point in their career. The more stressful the job, the higher the risk of developing the condition. It is important to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue. The consequences of compassion fatigue can not only affect you, but it can also affect patients, co-workers, and family members.

Indicators of compassion fatigue


  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Oversensitivity
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive use of substances: nicotine, alcohol, illicit drugs
  • Depression
  • Anger and resentment
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Memory issues
  • Poor concentration, focus, and judgment


  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems: diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbances: inability to sleep, insomnia, too much sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Cardiac symptoms: chest pain/pressure, palpitations, tachycardia
  • Withdrawal and isolation


  • Questioning meaning of life
  • Questioning religious beliefs
  • Increased skepticism
  • Loss of hope
  • Helplessness


  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Avoidance
  • Hyper-vigilant
  • Diminished sense of purpose
  • Diminished sense of enjoyment
  • Difficulty separating work and home life
  • Diminished functioning in non-professional circumstances
  • Increased self-soothing behaviors

Tips for maintaining balance

Be kind to yourself

  • Accept where you are on your path at all times.
  • Organize your life so you become proactive as opposed to reactive.
  • Enhance your awareness with education.
  • Use natural healing products to care for and heal your body.

Develop a healthy support system

  • People who contribute to your self-esteem, people who listen well, and people who care.
  • Understand that those close to you may not be there when you need them most.
  • Exchange information and feelings with people who can validate you.
  • Listen to others who are suffering.

Practice the art of self-management

  • Clarify your personal boundaries: what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Take positive action to change your environment.
  • Express your needs verbally.
  • Reserve your life energy for worthy causes.  Choose your battles.

Take care of yourself 

  • Health-building activities such as exercise, massage, yoga, meditation.
  • Eating healthy foods.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Sing, dance, sit with silence.

Where to get help when you need it

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all employees 24/7 at no cost to you. You can visit with someone in person or over the phone. You can reach the EAP at 1-877-MyTHRLink, prompt 4, press 4.