In a 2015 study, researchers analyzed a database containing survey responses from over one million healthcare employees regarding what they valued most in their job roles and workplace. From these results, the researchers hoped to gain a better understanding of the major drivers of nursing engagement. From there, they could then suggest how best to implement measures in every hospital to help reduce the rising rates of nurse turnover. In order of importance, here is the employees’ top 10 list of what makes their jobs meaningful:
- “This organization provides high-quality care and service.
- This organization treats employees with respect.
- I like the work I do.
- The environment at this organization makes employees in my work unit want to go above and beyond what’s expected of them.
- My pay is fair compared to other healthcare employers in this area.
- My job makes good use of my skills and abilities.
- I get the tools and resources I need to provide the best care/service for our clients/patients.
- This organization provides career development opportunities.
- This organization conducts business in an ethical manner.
- Patient safety is a priority in this organization.”
Guess what major detriment to nursing engagement affects all but one of the statements on that list? Compassion fatigue. Beyond concerns over compensation, there’s a very good chance nurses in your institution have experienced or are currently experiencing “a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical distress” (“Compassion Fatigue . . . ”). This unique form of burnout skews work/life balance, which reduces engagement and results in a significant compromise in quality of care and service, organizational harmony, and even patient safety.
What causes compassion fatigue?
First, one must keep in mind the difference between empathy and compassion. Where empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (especially one who’s suffering), compassion is the accompanying urge to ease that suffering. What better way to describe the essence of nursing than as habitualized compassion. Of course, the cumulative effect of the required education, long shifts, and on-the-job stresses isn’t so easy to pin down:
There’s a good chance compassion fatigue is behind much of the nursing turnover rate.
According to the same engagement study, there’s a positive correlation between direct provision of care and disengagement:
The engagement researchers then considered this correlation within the context of the nursing career lifecycle and which part of it is currently experiencing the highest turnover:
As you can see, the career lifecycle is weakest between the end of a nurse’s “honeymoon phase” and that nurse’s 11-15 year mark. When it comes to nursing turnover, there are certainly more contributing factors than just compassion fatigue. But the relationship between direct provision of care, engagement, turnover rates, and tenure is too troubling not to address compassion fatigue as early as possible in the career lifecycle.
What can healthcare facilities do to alleviate compassion fatigue? That’s a trick question.
The range of modes to help reduce compassion fatigue within a particular facility span from on-site support to self-care strategies:
- Employee Assistance Programs – “provide employees with supportive counseling for personal and/or work-related issues”
- Workplace Mentor/ Supervisor – “understands the norms and expectations of one’s unit may assist in identifying strategies that will help cope with the current work situation”
- Pastoral Care Departments – “meet the spiritual needs of patients, families, and staff”
- Positive Self-Care Strategies – “replenishing strategies that can promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well being”
- On-Site Relaxation Spaces – “a comfortable, relaxing environment in a designated place on the nursing unit”
- Nursing Residency Programs – “[new graduate nurses] develop effective decision-making skills related to clinical judgment and performance and to gain clinical autonomy, thus enhancing their job satisfaction and increasing their retention”
But there’s a good chance that even these resources may not meet the needs of all nurses. That’s why it’s important to harness technology to create support structures for nurses outside of the workplace, where even the most sensitive issues can be addressed in a safe environment, without worry of on-job consequences or conflicts.
Enter Engaged Nurse, an online community and resource center where nurses can share their stories while offering advice and mentorship to each other.
As a digital network, Engaged Nurse looks to fill the gaps that arise even in hospitals with the most advanced anti-compassion fatigue strategies. Through its website and overarching social media presence, Engaged Nurse offers a variety of information on community care and self-care for nurses.
Check out their website: http://engagednurse.com/
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