Taking care of the caretaker: navigating compassion fatigue through a pandemic

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Benita N Chatmon
Ecoee Rooney


COVID-19 pandemic, compassion fatigue, mental health and well-being, healthcare professional


The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating on the mental health and well-being of healthcare professionals (HCPs). HCPs have had to withstand the prolong suffering of their patients, with some outcomes resulting in death. As a result, HCPs are predisposed to compassion fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the HCP. It is estimated that 48– 53 percent of nurses experience compassion fatigue. Nurses are known for their ability to alleviate patient suffering, however, lack of effective resources and knowledge of how to effectively treat patients with COVID-19 has left many HCPs feeling powerless to care for the sick and suffering in their care. Known protective factors against and strategies to reduce compassion fatigue and other emotional stresses include; socialising, mindfulness habits, healthy lifestyle habits, journaling, and seeking professional help. The management of compassion fatigue must be multi-dimensional and include prevention, assessment, and consequence minimisation. The nursing profession has to be bold and acknowledge that compassion fatigue is a critical risk within many healthcare environments, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, over four million people have died from the COVID-19 virus worldwide, and approximately 700 thousand in the United States. The impact of the pandemic has been traumatising for many nurses and midwives. A collaborative effort between hospital administrators and HCPs is imperative in assessing, implementing, and mitigating compassion fatigue that is a normal response to the abnormal exposure to trauma in this critical frontline workforce.

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, Compassion Fatigue, Mental Health. Healthcare Professionals

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