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6: Compassion Fatigue: A Heavy Heart Hurts




Compassion fatigue is a syndrome that carers may develop when they internalize pain or anguish related to other people in their work environment. Nurses who work in areas where patients usually do not return to a previous level of wellness are especially at risk of compassion fatigue; however, it is important to realize that we bear witness to suffering in all areas of healthcare. There are a lot of things in the profession of nursing that can contribute to the development of compassion fatigue; basically, anything that results in one’s heart feeling heavy. Signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue are abundant and highly individualized, but for the most part, they usually go unnoticed by those who are experiencing the phenomenon. Because compassion fatigue is also considered to arise from cosuffering, we would do well to recall the manifestations of suffering, noting that it is existential and encompasses the entire being.