Debrief in Emergency Departments to Improve Compassion Fatigue and Promote Resiliency

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Abstract

The purpose of this case study was to describe compassion fatigue using one nurse's experience as an example and to present the process of Personal Reflective Debrief as an intervention to prevent compassion fatigue in emergency department (ED) nurses. Debriefing after adverse outcomes using a structured model has been used in health care as a nonthreatening and relatively low-cost way to discuss unanticipated outcomes, identify opportunities for improvement, and heal as a group. There are many methods of debrief tailored to specific timing around events, specific populations of health care workers, and amount of time for debriefing. Debrief with personal and group reflection will help develop insights that nurses may need to understand their own emotions and experiences, as well as to develop knowledge that can be used in subsequent situations. Regular engagement in a proactive scheduled Personal Reflective Debrief has been identified as a method of promoting resiliency in an environment where the realities of emergency nursing make compassion fatigue an imminent concern. Nurses working in the ED normally experience some level of stress because of high acuity patients and high patient volume; yet, repeated exposure puts them at risk for developing compassion fatigue. The Personal Reflective Debrief is one way emergency nurses can alleviate some of this caring-related stress and thereby become more resilient. Increasing nurses' resilience to workplace stress can counter compassion fatigue. The key is to provide planned, proactive resources to positively improve resiliency.

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