Taking care of people in distress day in and day out and witnessing their pain and suffering can have a negative impact on healthcare providers. Especially if you feel like you have to do it all and end up taking on more than you can handle. Nurses can experience burnout and compassion fatigue when they are spread too thin and stress starts getting to them. This feeling of exhaustion can have a negative effect on the quality of care they provide to their patients.

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It is important to educate yourself on the risks of Compassion Fatigue to help improve your well-being and protect the safety of your patients.

Warning Signs:

Picking up on these early warning signs can help prevent possible negative consequences. The first step to solving the problem is education and awareness. If you spot these signs in yourself or fellow nurses, speak up and seek help, if you don’t, you are enabling an opportunity for potential errors to happen.

-Making small errors

-Lack of compassion for patients


-Not talking about feelings

-Blaming or complaining about others excessively

-Poor hygiene/self-care

-In denial

-Constantly feeling tired

-Inability to concentrate

-Substance abuse

-Compulsive behaviours

-Frequently gets sick



-Aggressive behaviours

-Chronic absenteeism

-Reluctant to change

-Inability to work in a group

There are numerous self-assessment tests online that you can take. After you have identified that there is a problem in you, a fellow nurse or in the workplace, the next step is to take action. Speaking up and educating your fellow nurses will help create a larger awareness of the issue and will prevent the negative effects of burnout that cause further stress on staff. Communication is key, lack of it can result in serious problems for both patients and clinicians. A 2015 report from CNA Financial Corporation and the Nurses Service Organization found that 15.7% and 13.8% of medical malpractice claims were against nurses involving either assessment or monitoring. This shows that burnout in nurses is a huge risk for patients.

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Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from others. There are many options available to you, such as spiritual support and mental health support. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, ask for help from others. Self-care is key to getting well. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can take to cure yourself of compassion fatigue. Healing takes time, commitment and patience. Committing yourself to a self-care plan is essential.

-Be kind to yourself and accept where you are

-Educate yourself on compassion fatigue

-Express your needs

-Talk to someone you trust

-Eat a healthy diet



-Set personal boundaries

-Establish a support group

-Become proactive in your life

-Do more things you enjoy


In the video below Patricia Smith gives a TedTalk on how to manage compassion fatigue with simple self-care measures.
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