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COVID-19, Nurses and Compassion Fatigue...Is it too late?

Updated: May 9, 2021

What is Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a gradual lessening of compassion and the ability of healthcare workers to care for patient’s overtime. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) defines compassion fatigue as "the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events." Symptoms of compassion fatigue include serious ailments such as intrusive thoughts, sleeping problems, and depression. In general, health care workers, especially nurses, are at risk of developing compassion fatigue.

Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Sleeping problems

  • Depression

  • Overreacting or an increase in emotional intensity

  • Decrease in cognitive ability

  • Impaired behavior and judgment

  • Isolation

  • Low morale

  • Loss of meaning and hope

  • Intense anger or sadness towards others or related events

For healthcare workers, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in compassion fatigue. Many healthcare workers had to assume new roles, increase caseloads and more frequent exposure to the critically ill, and helping families to cope with the illness of COVID-19 and death. As we recover from the pandemic many nurses will start to face genuine symptoms of compassion fatigue. This can have serious long-term negative effects on nursing and can lead nursing and can lead to burnout, poor work results, and high turnover rates with nurses leaving the profession.

Researcher Dr. Scannell is embarking on a study examining compassion fatigue among Emergency Department nurses who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research is a starting point to help understand what the scope of the problem may be. Ultimately this research is necessary as it can help to identify the problem and then start to build and integrate some resiliency measures to help prevent or combat compassion fatigue.

To learn more about the study visit Study site or

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