The Emotional Cost of Caring for Others: One Pediatric Hospital's Journey to Reduce Compassion Fatigue

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

This study examined the prevalence of compassion fatigue and life stress of pediatric nurses.

BACKGROUND

Distressing patient situations over time may affect nurses' professional quality of life and result in compassion fatigue. If not addressed, compassion fatigue may have personal and organizational consequences.

METHODS

Using a descriptive, correlational design, a convenience sample of 268 nurses completed a web-based survey.

RESULTS

High compassion satisfaction and moderate to low burnout and secondary traumatic stress were described by 49% of participants. Education was statistically associated with burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Life stress scores were significantly associated with age, experience, organizational tenure, and professional engagement. Narrative commentary yielded 5 themes: staffing, recognition, boundaries, expectations, and hopelessness. Organizational initiatives to prevent or mitigate compassion fatigue focused on awareness, balance, and connections.

CONCLUSIONS

Nurses are negatively impacted by the emotional cost of caring. Future studies need to identify interventions to minimize compassion fatigue.

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