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Barnes-Jewish Hospital Research Shows Program Reduces Compassion Fatigue in Caregivers

St. Louis, MO (PRWEB) October 31, 2013

An innovative program implemented three years ago at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is helping prevent bedside nurses from leaving direct patient care due to a condition known as “compassion fatigue.” Among the employees surveyed after attending a course designed at combating compassion fatigue, high risk for burnout was cut in half and high risk for secondary trauma dropped by a third.

By creating an in-house training model, nearly 500 employees at Barnes-Jewish have been educated on the six resiliency efforts to overcome compassion fatigue, which is a combination of secondary traumatic stress and burnout, most often experienced by nurses who continually show empathy to patients. Providing empathetic care means a care provider sometimes deals with the same feelings a patient goes through—from physical pain to sadness and loss.

“For me, the class was life-changing,” says Catherine Powers, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, clinical nurse specialist at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center. “Looking back at my time in patient care and the stumbling blocks I went through, I am rejuvenated in my career now. The compassion fatigue course helps decrease the chance of burning out and renews hope.”

“The responses to the course show that we are making inroads in reducing compassion fatigue for our team,” says Patricia Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of research at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We are continually offering the course twice a month to reach more caregivers as time goes on.”

Potter says the importance of the course is also explained to new nurses as part of orientation.

Compassion fatigue is a relatively new concept to nursing at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and efforts to help address the issue have been very well received, according to Powers. Powers left bedside nursing in 1992, but still remains connected to those caregivers in her role as a clinical nurse specialist. Now, she teaches the compassion fatigue course to those seeking to remain at the bedside.

“I knew I couldn’t do direct patient care forever, but back then we didn’t know it was called compassion fatigue and there wasn't a class for me to take to help prevent burning out,” says Powers. “I used to see people just switch jobs if they were burned out, moving from unit to unit, but now we are trying to get to the root of the problem.”

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