Nurturing the compassionate nurse: combatting nurse fatigue and burnout
People often ask me why I care so much about nursing and healthcare. The answer to this question is manifold. I come from a family of nurses. My mother, who passed away from stomach cancer in 2003, was a nurse for all of her adult life. My father, who is nearing retirement now, has been a nurse for 20 years (his story can be found in this series!). And my very first job, was caring for older people in a care home owned by my parents. These facts, combined with losing my mother when she was only 48, and watching both my father and her other nurses care for her so compassionately, both throughout her battle with cancer and during her last days, has given me an extremely soft spot for nurses.
My career then serendipitously landed me at the British Journal of Nursing where I worked with nurses on a daily basis, and following this, managed four editors and seven other healthcare and nursing titles. My career up to date has been a result of my passions for journalism, for demystifying health and healthcare information, and for advocating for the nurses who care for all of us and our loved ones, even when the healthcare system is wearing thin and they don't always have the resources or support to continue doing their jobs as effectively as so many of them still do.
Nurses do a tough job. What they need are healthy and regular outlets for sharing and reflecting on their experiences, so they can continue to provide the compassionate person-centred care we rely on them for. This is what this initiative is about. Below, you will find a short editorial, a Q&A about compassion fatigue, and a series of eight patient care stories - all from nurses. I hope you find them enlightening.
What is compassion fatigue/caregiver burnout?
EDITORIAL: Cardiac nurse, Rebecca Myatt, shares her thoughts on compassion fatigue.
INTERVIEW: Caryl Eyre, R.N., Clinical Nurse Specialist, Cleveland, Ohio. USA.
Caryl Eyre has a Psychiatric-Mental Health background and has been bringing her knowledge and skill to medical-surgical nursing for more than 40 years. She has written about compassion fatigue and has developed and implemented solutions to this important issue within her own hospital.
Rebecca Myatt is a specialist nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, UK with over 20 years’ experience in the field of cardiothoracic nursing. She has a particular interest in the management of pleural disease and runs a dedicated clinic for patients with long-term intercostal drains and Pleurx Catheters. Her other interests are teaching for patients, staff and postgraduate students, and disseminating knowledge through publications in the nursing press.
STORY SERIES: Sharing care stories to combat compassion fatigue
Why does this matter?
"Nurses who are on the frontlines working with very distressing cases need to have some emotional support in their own lives, invest in their emotional welfare, from family, partners, friends. If they don’t have that, seek support through a counsellor, somebody who can help them to carry their emotional burden of what they’re facing, the reality of what they’re facing. I would also advocate that within nursing teams, to support one another, and take time to offload with one another without guilt or shame because talking to someone really helps ."
- Honey Langcaster-James, Clinical Psychologist and Lecturer, University of Hull
"I come into contact on a daily basis with nurses of every specialty, and one of the things that strikes me most about them, after their unwavering dedication to their patients, is the complete lack of support they often receive during their day-to-day as they dish out compassionate care to patients, families and carers who may be going through the most difficult time of their lives. This is an extremely important initiative and I hope decision makers take notice this International Nurses' Day and implement supportive outlets for their nurses who give so much of themselves."
- Julie Smith, Editor, British Journal of Nursing
"I think your initiative for caregivers on Nurses Day is so needed. As a long time caregiver, I have dealt with a crazy amount of burnout over the years. I definitely want to follow what you're doing because I know I and others can use it."
- Laurie Oakley, long time caregiver and the 18-year expert patient who authored Crazy and It Was