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Compassion Fatigue: 'an apple a day'?

There is a little whiff of Spring in the air but the long days, dark mornings and pressures facing many in emergency departments have left many feeling tired and even exhausted. What can this tiredness do? Well it can certainly affect our physical and mental health but it can even affect our ability to be caring and compassionate. I once heard a colleague say "I don't know how it happened, but I'm not sure that I care enough any more." One of the saddest things I have heard a doctor say.

Last month I came across an event taking place right here in Bristol with a talk from Lucy Maddox (Consultant Clinical Psychologist) on 'Compassion Fatigue in the Helping Professions'. We are all at risk of succumbing to this and it is important to know what to look for. In the Compassion Fatigue Workbook, Francoise Mathieu states,

“Compassion fatigue refers to the profound emotional and physical exhaustion that helping professionals and caregivers can develop over the course of their career as helpers. It is a gradual erosion of all the things that keep us connected to others in our caregiver role: our empathy, our hope, and of course our compassion—not only for others but also for ourselves.”

Workshops and initiatives to support us with fatigue and symptoms of burnout are important but our focus must, of course, be on preventing the stressors and pathways that can lead to 'deep' tiredness and ultimately, compassion fatigue. The 'Apple a Day' that may keep fatigue away for healthcare staff is being engaged in an active process (Wellness) to keep ourselves healthy and to look after our wellbeing. For example it is important to continually try to:

1. Feel Happy at Work

2. Strive to be Healthy

3. Manage Night Shifts and Sleep

4. Think about Stress and Mental Health

5. Be ‘Mindful’

Hopefully the You Got This programme will help you to do that but think about other ways to explore these areas and to look after yourself and those around you.

There are some nice links to some good FOAMed on Compassion Fatigue from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine here:

There is also a nice overview on Compassion Fatigue from the American College of Emergency Physicians:

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