Being responsible for patient care can be one of the most stressful careers an individual can choose to pursue. As of late, the job satisfaction rate for physicians and nurses are at an all-time low and is causing many to decide to move out of healthcare. While in school, they are taught the skill of being a super hero that can complete their job without feeling emotion. These skills help to get through difficult shifts, but internalizing stressors ultimately leads to symptoms very similar to PTSD and has come to be known as compassion fatigue.
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is described when those responsible for patient care began to lose the ability to connect emotionally with a patient to feel compassion toward them in their time of need. These phenomena is happening in the healthcare industry at a rapid rate as physicians are asked to do more clinically with less financial overhead and emotional support. It ultimately leads to professions that are struggling with exhaustion, anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Is Leadership the Problem?
Many believe that one of the main factors to influence compassion fatigue would be ensuring that those put into leadership positions receive the appropriate training themselves on how to emotionally support their team members. Simple tasks like enforcing daily check ins with the clinical staff so that concerns can be discussed help to create the feeling of a support system in place. Taking the time to put the right leadership team in place that know how to hire the best people and treat them well can make huge strides in work place satisfaction.
Creative Solutions to Compassion Fatigue
In addition to training the leadership team, educating teams in how to provide peer to peer support will help to eliminate the stress. Training in providing emotion support and programs like “lavender alerts” which deploys teams during periods of high stress out to the floors to provide emotion support start to create an atmosphere that begins a conversation around relieving stress.
Other programs like offering yoga and onsite massages are also options. Common corporate initiatives like offering exercise facilities on site for clinicians are beginning to be common practice and are highly rated as items that help increase satisfaction. Even bringing concierge services on-site that can handle the daily stresses of life like planning birthday parties or getting dry cleaning done help teams feel appreciated and allow them the ability to truly decompress when not on shift.
More Joy, Less Busy Work
Finally, the biggest factor in the feeling of burn out is spending a vast majority of time doing work that is not aligned with patient care. Using clunky computer systems or having to spend time finding supplies can cause undue frustration. One facility opted to hire more charge nurses or assistance for physicians that are responsible for administrative tasks. By having an extra set of hands to do tasks not directly related to patient care brought an automatic increase in job satisfaction.
The best cure for compassion fatigue? Putting joy back into practicing medicine. Every person that entered into medicine did so because they felt a calling. Being able to realign work with something that has deep meaning changes the game for everyone. When patients are having interactions with clinicians that are compassionate, they are more likely to be more engaged in their care. This ultimately leads to higher levels of compliance to their plan of care which will bring positive outcomes. An investment in curing compassion fatigue can ultimately be a competitive advantage.