How to avoid compassion fatigue in healthcare

What is compassion fatigue in healthcare?

The phrase “compassion fatigue” (CF) was created to explain the phenomena of stress brought on by being around a traumatized person. It is characterized as a decline in the caregiver’s capacity for empathy brought on by physical and mental exhaustion.

Professionals who work in healthcare, emergency services, or community services who are frequently exposed to the traumatic experiences of patients are especially vulnerable to getting CF. This may have an effect on patient care standards, and interpersonal connections with coworkers, or even trigger more severe mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. [1]

When a caregiver is exposed to an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the emotional suffering of others it can cause secondary traumatic stress (STS).

How to prevent compassion fatigue in healthcare

  • Create a mental health journal
  • Stop looking for bad news
  • Limit your time on social media platforms
  • Prevent stress and burnout
  • Practice CBT with a therapist

Compassion satisfaction: a protective mechanism against compassion fatigue

Compassion satisfaction (CS), is defined as the satisfaction experienced by healthcare providers. This is brought about by different factors including meaningful work and colleague relationships. Compassion satisfaction has been shown to be a protective mechanism against compassion fatigue in healthcare. Therefore it is important that students choose a healthcare career that they find meaningful and satisfying. [2]

Compassion fatigue in nursing

Like other healthcare professionals, nurses are repeatedly exposed to the suffering of patients. Professional boundaries, self-care practices, self-awareness, and education on the subject all help to prevent compassion fatigue. [3]

How does compassion fatigue affect patient care?

Compassion fatigue has been shown to have a negative effect on the healthcare system and the quality of patient care as a result of healthcare professionals not being able to perform at their best.


  1. Compassion Fatigue among Healthcare, Emergency and Community Service Workers: A Systematic Review (2016)
  2. Quality of Life in Nursing Professionals: Burnout, Fatigue, and Compassion Satisfaction (2020)
  3. Compassion fatigue in nursing: A concept analysis (2018)

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