Compassion fatigue refers to a condition of health in which those who care for patients suffer from emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual deficiency and exhaustion. Compassion fatigue is often experienced by caregivers in various fields such as elderly people, accident and rape victims and hospitalized patients among others. Usually, such patients are traumatized and thus require extensive care. Compassion fatigue manifests itself through the emotional exhaustion.
Causes of Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout
Compassion fatigue usually is resulted from being overworked during caretaking. This makes the caregiver develop negative attitudes towards him/her and towards others, including the patient. They often feel helpless and traumatized by the care giving environment. Compassion fatigue often results in physical and emotional pain and suffering (Figley, 1995).
The major symptoms of compassion fatigue are: isolation from others, excessive complaints, compulsive conducts such as sexual additions and difficulties in concentration. Compassion fatigue patients often suffer from the substance abuse, apathy, experience flashbacks of traumatic events that happened in the past and no longer find activities that they used to enjoy pleasurable. They exhibit poor personal care, for instance, they maintain poor hygiene and might not mind about their physical appearance and groom. They usually deny the existence of such problems (Figley, 1995).
On the other hand, at organizational level, there is a possibility of chronic absenteeism of workers from duty stations, frequent and harsh frictions between staff and the management, inability of staff members to work peacefully in teams and negative attitude towards the management. The organization may also experience outbreaks of destructive, belligerent and hostile behaviors amongst the staff. In addition, most workers will show signs of strong reluctance towards the change and low rates of completing assigned tasks, and indication of the stressful workplace.
Coping With Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout
Caregivers should not give too much care to patients without practicing individual self-care. Ignorance of self-care may lead to sprouting and surfacing of destructive behaviors such as carelessness, apathy, social isolation and emotional disturbances. They should also care for their own personal needs. Patients of compassion fatigue practice healthy and happy lifestyles that would help them build their emotional deficits (Montgomery, 1999). It advisable that they do simple activities, such as exercising regularly, eating well balanced diets, getting enough sleep and getting involved in social activities, such as sports and get-together parties (Jackson, 2002). They should make good use of available resources such as medical journals that may assist them in identifying the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of compassion fatigue. They should learn how to manage effectively and cope with compassion fatigue. They should practice proper stress management techniques to enable them handle stresses and traumas resulting form care giving (Reynolds, Crowe & Scales, 2010).
Lastly, they should accept the presence of compassion fatigue in their lives and seek for medical advice as soon as possible.
Training Guide for Professional Healthcare Workers
This training guide is developed for a group of professional health care workers. This is because they are the primary caregivers for patients.
The main purpose of this training guide is to offer guiding principles, procedures, ways and techniques for managing compassion fatigue experienced by most professional health care workers. It will enable healthcare workers to develop new coping tools and techniques for handling the compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout.
It will focus on team building and encouraging caregivers to set personal realistic goals, as well as outlining the possible sources of help and assistance to persons suffering the compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout.
Contents of the Training Guide
It offers a detailed strategy on how to identify people’s suffering from compassion fatigue. This guide outlines ways of increasing productivity and competence through the reduced self-doubt and less exposure and vulnerability of the healthcare workers. Trainees will be provided with training materials and everyone will undergo at least three psychic therapy workshops. There shall be self assessment forms with questions that need genuine and heartily answers from the participants. Caregivers will be equipped with effective listening and communication skills to enable them mange their emotional with ease.
This training guide will help in developing a healthy support system, for example, being around people who give emotional support, how to organize personal life, methods of building a strong self esteem, sharing personal problems with people who listen to and care about oneself. The training will offer formal education on how to deal with traumas and stresses. Additionally, trainees will be guided on how to reduce the excessive exposure in the job environment, workplace risk reduction techniques, how to give hopes to patients as well as the DOs and DONT’s when faced with compassion fatigue problems. The training will help the workers identify what is important for them in their lives and live in a way that reflects it.
Health care workers, who suffer from compassion fatigue and burnouts, will be encouraged to live a well balanced life, such as developing good eating habits, playing and sporting, socializing and exercising regularly. This will help reduce care giving tension and stress.
During the training, care givers, who suffer from compassion fatigue, shall be taught on how to freely and openly express themselves, their emotional, physical and psychological needs and any other problem that they may have encountered. They will also be taught on the most appropriate positive actions and steps to take towards changing the workplace into a better environment. For instance, they should set and clarify personal boundaries, be loyal to self-care plans, accept and appreciate themselves and be able to seek help form others, especially close friends, relatives and medical professionals in times of need.
Furthermore, caregivers will be recognized and given credit for their tireless effort in assisting other patients. They will be taught on how to accept and face challenges that arise due to the complex nature of care giving environment, and be able to understand how their jobs may negatively affect their emotions and physical wellbeing.
The last but not the least, after successful complication of the training, participants will be expected to develop suitable work schedules, draft manual and models for coping with compassion fatigue.
In my opinion, caregivers should practice healthy lifestyles and personal self-care as they care for others too. Successful care giving entails good wellbeing of the caregiver both psychologically and socially. It is important for any given caregiver to learn how to cope with and effectively manage compassion fatigue and burnouts. Compassion fatigue patients should be encouraged to join caregiver support group and other community support groups where they can share past experiences with friends and other professionals.