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BURNOUT & COMPASSION FATIGUE (CF).

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

“I have been working almost every day for the past months; we are so short-staffed that I can barely have a day off per week; I have been recently feeling more tired almost to the point of exhaustion, sleeping poorly with terrible appetite, I feel I have gotten beyond my breaking points, nothing interests me again, I constantly found it difficult to concentrate, I am beginning to doubt my ability.” Nurse D.



Stress is intrinsic to nursing, and a highly demanding job with little support, rapidly changing circumstances, shortage of resources and staff, and dealing with death and dying all contribute (Chang et al., 2005). Burnout is considered an occupational hazard with three components: exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment (Maslach & Goldberg, 1998). These three components may come from various factors in the work or individual’s environment.


According to Babineau et al. (2019), the stress of work that shows in the form of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization is self-protective at first – an emotional buffer of concern, thus showing the development of a decreased interpersonal aspect of functioning. Meanwhile, the last factor, reduced personal accomplishment represents the self-evaluation dimension. Burnout is a phenomenon unique to people working in human caring services, leading to emotional exhaustion.


Burnout among nursing staff is related to an increased level of occupational stress. Burnout has adverse effects on healthcare professionals (insomnia, irritability, fatigue, anorexia, etc.) and also in the workplace, such as absenteeism, temporary work disability, deterioration of patient care, or more errors on the job. Burnout is a significant contributor to increased attrition and nursing errors and is associated with lower quality of care. As prevalent as it is, burnout is often misunderstood, stigmatized, and costly to the nurse’s health and well-being and the employer’s productivity. Some contributing factors to burnout include workload and job demands, staff shortage, inadequate social support, work-life imbalance, perceived lack of control, poor reward system, poor communication system, etc.



On the other hand, compassion fatigue (CF) describes the physical and mental distress and exhaustion derived from the care of others. CF results from more of the relationship between nurses and patients. The phenomenon of CF emerges suddenly and without warning and includes a sense of helplessness and confusion. Nurses with CF have physical and emotional symptoms and exhaustion that negatively affect their job performance and effective outcomes. CF often results from giving high energy and compassion over a prolonged period to those suffering without experiencing the positive outcomes of seeing patients improve.


Burnout can be described as what occurs externally to the provider (nurses), while CF is what happens internally to the provider (nurse).



v Prevention and Treatment of Burnout & CF.

ü Mindfulness

ü Self-awareness/self-compassion

ü Work-life balance

ü Improved communication

ü Seek help

ü CBT.

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