National Headlines

EDU. | Compassion Fatigue: The Toll of Being a Care Provider

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 | By Martha Jablow, special to AAMCNews

Too much paperwork, too many long shifts, too little time to sleep, exercise, or relax with family and friends. These stressors can push physicians into early retirement, career changes, cuts in practice hours—or compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue can be the result of physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion from the demands of being a physician. “It’s a feeling of ‘I can’t connect with patients anymore,’” explained Oana Tomescu, MD, PhD, associate professor of clinical medicine and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. “Everybody’s at risk. I see it consistently in health care providers,” said Kate G. Sheppard, PhD, RN, FNP, PMHNP-BC, FAANP. About 10 years ago, Sheppard, a clinical associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, observed new nurses in emergency rooms who were excited, enthusiastic, and engaged with patients. The nurses who had 20 to 30 years of experience were detached by comparison, she said, “like they were going through the motions. They had built walls to avoid the hurt [of witnessing suffering, trauma, and death].”



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