I got so much out of the pre-Congress session, Compassion Fatigue: Building Resilience in Oncology Nurses, led by Katrina Fetter, RN, BSN, OCN®, Penny Damaskos, PhD, LCSW, OSW-C, and Katherine Janzen, RN, MN. I am seriously jealous of anyone who has the pleasure of working with any of these people. They were all amazing. They clearly defined terms; for example, Penny stated, "Burnout is grounded in the work environment, whereas compassion fatigue is grounded in the clinical work." I don't know if I'd ever taken the time to think about the distinctions between the two, but they are important. And those differences will define how we can effectively attempt to prevent or resolve either.
Then, they listed strategies to combat the problem.
- Become involved in unit projects. They can reduce isolation.
- Develop strategies to leave work at work, and give yourself permission to do so.
- Find and use sounding boards.
- Get involved in something outside of work that you find meaningful (e.g., painting, sports, volunteering).
- Tell stories. Narratives carry so much power.
- Develop a journal for staff to write about patients they knew well. They can contribute a story, an anecdote, a favorite quote, and then give it to the families as a gift.
Those thoughts stayed with me when I attended the Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Special Interest Group meeting a few days later. Someone brought up the issue of young, new nurses burning out before even finishing orientation or in less than a year. Other members offered suggestions, and some of them were similar to those offered a few days prior. My favorite suggestion was from someone who said they rotate their floor nurse staff to their outpatient survivor clinic. That allows the nurses to see patients with positive outcomes and not just the ones who may not fair so well on the inpatient side. This seems like a solution that would truly make a difference in nurses' attititudes. Because, after a long week of 12-hour shifts caring for patients who are acutely ill, are in the ICU, or have not made it, I think I'd be past the point where a journal entry would help.
Do you have effective strategies to prevent or reduce compassion fatigue that you'd like to share?