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Compassion fatigue: Impact on healthcare providers of caring for the terminally ill
Date:4/1/2009

INDIANAPOLIS Compassion fatigue in nurses, doctors and other front line cancer-care providers significantly impacts how they interact with patients, with patient families, with other healthcare workers, and with their own family, according to analysis by Indiana University School of Medicine and Regenstrief Institute researchers published in the March issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.

"The healthcare field is becoming more aware of the profound emotional disturbances that occur in healthcare providers when they witness the suffering and pain of their patients in the face of an incurable disease, such as cancer. Healthcare providers are often partners in this journey, and the understanding of the effects of caring for the terminally ill on the caregiver is limited," the researchers wrote. They reviewed 57 studies to identify the prevalence of compassion fatigue among cancer-care providers, how to detect it and means of prevention and treatment.

"Individuals who are drawn into healthcare careers may be more likely to develop compassion fatigue, based on their drive for perfection and to do their best for their patients. If you work in an environment where despite your very best efforts patients for whom you provide care will not survive, there is a set up for developing a sense of 'there is nothing I can do anymore,'" says the study's principal investigator Caroline Carney Doebbeling, M.D., associate professor of medicine and of psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute research scientist.

The term compassion fatigue was first coined in the 1990s to describe a syndrome experienced by a healthcare provider caring for individuals facing dire consequences as a result of their disease. Going beyond empathy or "feeling bad" for the person, it effects the nurse, doctor or other member of the healthcare team in a way that he or she often develops a distance from the patient as a way of self-pr
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Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
caisen@iupui.edu
317-274-7722
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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