Compassion Fatigue in Palliative Care Nursing: A Concept Analysis


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Abstract

The purpose of this review was to define compassion fatigue in the context of palliative care nursing. Compassion fatigue was first introduced as a description for nursing burnout; however, it was not fully described. An initial concept analysis within nursing placed it in terms of a psychological model for secondary traumatic stress disorder, with continual revisions of this application. Palliative care nurses are routinely exposed to pain, trauma, and the suffering they witness by nature of ongoing symptom management and end-of-life care delivery; however, the focus of care is on healthy end-of-life management rather than preservation of life. The literature was reviewed to provide clarification of compassion fatigue for palliative care nurses to assist in future identification and direction in the profession. CINAHL, EBSCO, Journals@Ovid, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, PubMed, and ScienceDirect databases were queried for peer-reviewed literature, and dictionaries were examined for subject-specific definitions. The method that was used was a concept analysis in the tradition of Walker and Avant. A concept definition was proposed for the discipline of palliative care nursing. Identification of compassion fatigue for this profession helps facilitate the recognition of symptoms for a group that deals with patient suffering on a regular basis.

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