Compassion Fatigue Assignment: Concept Analysis Essay

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Compassion Fatigue Assignment: Concept Analysis Essay

Compassion Fatigue Assignment: Concept Analysis Essay



In nursing theory development, concept analysis plays a critical role, as they constitute scientific knowledge. Concepts also make up variables which can be measured or explained within a particular theory. In this paper, the analysis of compassion fatigue as a concept is critical in understanding the theory of care. Nursing theories influence the nursing profession in many ways and shape how nurses serve in their practice. They provide guidance and knowledge useful for individuals in the nursing profession. Similarly, theories provide a model that helps define and support the nursing practice, auspicious solutions for nursing problems or issues, and promote the quality of care patients receive. The theory of human caring by Watson is applicable to the nursing practice, particularly in helping nurses foreclose as regards compassion fatigue. This theory argues for the creation of a caring and loving relationship between the patient and the nurse (Pajnkihar, Štiglic, & Vrbnjak, 2017). The existence of such a relationship requires the nurse to exhibit empathy, compassion, and be authentically present in the course of providing care. This theory is useful in promoting the welfare of the nurses and patients as nurses who care about their own welfare tend to more likely promote the welfare of others. To provide the best care, nurses must possess a healthy body, spirit, and mind (Clark, 2016).

The intention of this paper is to dig into the phenomenon of compassion fatigue in connection to the theory by Watson. The paper also provides recommendations for nurses in forestalling and managing compassion fatigue. First, compassion fatigue is defined and explained in connection with the theory. This is achieved in the definition and literature review sections. The paper then analyzes the attributes of compassion fatigue and look at its antecedents and consequences. The paper also analyzes the empirical referents, which are the objective ways in which compassion fatigue can be measured. Next, the paper presents three cases, one of which is a model case and two others, a borderline case and a contrasting case. The next section addresses the theoretical applications of compassion fatigue in relation to the theory. Finally, a conclusion is provided, which is a summary of the findings and a description of the link between compassion fatigue and Watson’s nursing theory.

Definition/Explanation of the Compassion Fatigue

Patients have numerous physical, spiritual, and emotional demands. Nurses working in emergency departments, hospice, pediatrics, oncology, family care, mental health, and public health might experience stress associated with patients’ death, trauma, suffering, and/or their chronic disease. If nurses do not manage these stressful demands, they could develop compassion fatigue. At times, nurses provide too much compassionate care of others that they forget to address their own needs (Nolte, Downing, Temane, & Hastings-Tolsma, 2017). People who choose the nursing profession do so knowing that they will be required to provide compassionate care to individuals with critical spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical needs. Nevertheless, nurses may experience stress when the needs of patients are exceedingly overwhelming.

Compassion fatigue denotes depletion in various needs linked to care provided to patients with considerable physical suffering and emotional instability. It refers to a distinctive type of burnout that people experience in the course of giving care. Professionals who are likely to experience compassion fatigue include those working in the emergency room, those who provide care for cancer patients, and first responders. The phenomenon is characterized by a personal experience of pain in the course of providing empathetic support to patients or their families (Nolte et al., 2017). This condition is common among nurses with weak communication and interpersonal skills. Self-assessment can significantly help nurses identify stressors that contribute to compassion fatigue.

Literature Review

Preventing Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is common among nurses even if it has not been studied exhaustively. Watson developed her theory of human caring, which posits that nurses can perform better and provide the best care if they create and maintain the fundamental empathic relationship with the patient (Bayuo, 2017). Therefore, the theory argues for relationship-based nursing. If nurses can manage their relationship with patients properly, they can prevent compassion fatigue. Nurses need to have assertiveness in exhibiting their personal values and needs (Jarrad, Hammad, Shawashi, & Mahmoud, 2018). They need to maintain a work-life balance, which is critical in providing the best care. They ought to understand their personal needs for their optimal health, performing well in their health care work environment, and maintaining empathic with the patients.

Link between Compassion Fatigue and Burnout

These two concepts are interconnected. They are featured significantly in the nursing profession particularly in the context of palliative care. Nurses have to manage their own loss and grief while providing care to dying patients. Nurses often experience pain and distress while caring for patients, which is exasperated by stressors like a non-supportive workplace, workload, and role ambiguity (Merk, 2018). Such factors lead to nursing burnout. If nurses are in stressful environments for prolonged period of time, they might end up experiencing mental and physical exhaustion, which contributes to the development of compassion fatigue (Cross, 2019). This phenomenon is very complex and develops when nurses are incapable of understanding their emotional needs and recognizing symptoms of stress. Indeed, nurses must be compassionate to themselves even as they show compassion to others.

Development and Management of Compassion Fatigue

The symptoms of compassion fatigue include reduced work performance and motivation, debilitation, withdrawal, indifference, absenteeism, and apathy. Burnout may result in disengagement, withdrawal, and indifference towards the work environment and patients (van Mol et al., 2017). Nurses may experience compassion fatigue suddenly or after some time. Consequently, compassion fatigue may result in a change in the personality of the nurse and increased tendency to leave the job (Cocker & Joss, 2016). Further, it results in deterioration in mental health. Thus, health care facilities should provide support to avert and address compassion fatigue.

Defining Attributes

Features of compassion fatigue may consist of compassion gratification, acquired stress, and burnout. Nurses may develop compassion fatigue by showing too much compassion and not recognizing their own needs. They then become too exhausted with their job and exhibit stress symptoms.

According to Hunsaker, Chen, Maughan, and Heaston (2015), compassion satisfaction denotes the joy that nurses derive from working. For instance, nurses may feel gratified if the patient to whom they are providing care gets better. They feel good because of their own efforts or the work of their colleagues in enhancing the work environment. Nevertheless, the joy of working may decline and turn into compassion fatigue if the patients are facing too much suffering.


Nurses who take care of patients with too much suffering are more vulnerable of developing compassion fatigue. They feel the need to take care of the patient and end up losing their ability to address their own needs; this can be referred to acquired stress. For instance, if a patient with whom the nurse was emotionally attached to dies, the nurse may be so traumatized and might not be able to effectively complete their shift.


Burnout is characterized by a sense of hopelessness and the unwillingness to work. Cross (2019) posits that most of the time, burnout develops over a period. The nurse may feel that he or she is doing so much without impacting positively on the client. For example, the nurse may spend too much time with a suffering patient with the hope that he will get better, but the patient eventually dies. Burnout is also linked to too much work and a non-supportive work environment.

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Antecedent and Consequence

Before developing compassion fatigue, nurses begin by showing too much concern for the patients and their families. This makes them

Compassion Fatigue Assignment Concept Analysis Essay

Compassion Fatigue Assignment Concept Analysis Essay

lose focus of their own physical and emotional needs (Cross, 2019). Nurses who develop compassion fatigue also begin by being overwhelmed by the experiences of their patients. Nolte et al. (2017) postulates that the consequences of compassion fatigue include emotional breakdown, increased complaints, reduced productivity or performance, loss of empathy, cynicism, depersonalization of patients, increase in psychosomatic illnesses such as headache and stomach pains, increased tendency to cause accidents, and a loss or gain in weight.

Empirical Referents

Empirical referents denote the ways to evaluate the intensity of compassion fatigue in the real world (Cross, 2019). Among the tools that might be applied in establishing the existence of compassion fatigue is the CARE-Q, which measures caring. The elements considered in using this measure are action, attitude, and relationship (Ayuso, Velázquez, Ayuso & Torre-Montero, 2017). To ensure that the nurse is providing the best care, they must sit with the patient and create a caring relationship. The nurse must show compassion at all stages of care including the critical stages of illness. They must show regard to the concerns of the patient as recommended by Watson’s theory. The nurse must remain professional and maintain a positive attitude in the course of providing care. The absence of these implies that the nurse could be having symptoms of this condition. The Professional Quality of Life Scale may also be used to determine whether the health professional is having compassion fatigue. The responses to each of the thirty questions help determine whether the nurse is exhibiting compassion satisfaction (Hunsaker et al., 2015). Hospitals may use these measures to determine whether any of their nurses is vulnerable of developing compassion fatigue. Other empirical referents that may be evaluated to confirm the existence of compassion fatigue are a lack of motivation, sensation of fatigue, disconnectedness, career and personal dissatisfaction.


Model Case

Jessica, a geriatric nurse, has been working in a long-term care facility for ten years. Residents in the facility were very fond of her for the last nine years. She used to report to work earlier than other members of staff and would leave after others had left. She was very compassionate about assisting residents and responding to concerns however trivial they seemed. She engaged residents in activities that enhanced their physical and mental health. She did more than the facility paid her to do. Nevertheless, over the last few years, many of the residents in the facility have died, and this has significantly affected Jessica. She no longer feels empathetic to residents, who often accuse her of being too harsh. She often feels too exhausted and unwilling to report to work the following day. She no longer wants to talk to residents or her colleagues. She is contemplating leaving the facility and getting a “better” job. Clearly, Jessica is experiencing compassion fatigue, which began with too much compassion but ended up in acquired stress and burnout. These three are the elements of compassion fatigue.

Borderline Case

Denise has been working as a nurse in a large health care facility providing care to cancer patients. Many of the patients admitted at the facility enjoy how she relates with them. She is very considerate about issues affecting the patients including pain and adverse effects of medication. She also likes spending time with the patients and hearing what they have to say about their health and future possibilities. However, Denise has realized that she lacks sleep particularly when a patient at the hospital dies. It takes about a week to recover from such losses. However, she understands the need to keep providing compassionate care to the remaining patients. Thus, she does not let her stress impede her relationship with patients. She also talks with her colleagues with whom they share stressful experiences related to work. She also seeks spiritual guidance while distressed and regularly engages in exercise, which has helped reduce her stress levels significantly. She does not experience burnout, which implies she does not feel the need to be away from her patients at any time. While Denise has secondary stress associated with losing some of her patients, she does not experience burnout or a lack of compassion. Thus, she only exhibits one aspect of compassion fatigue, which is acquired stress.

Contrary Case

Kemar is a practicing nurse in a private hospital. He understands the need to maintain a work-life balance, which implies he reports to work only when necessary. He avoids being too empathetic with his patients even though he does his job well as a nurse. He avoids creating relationships with patients that may go beyond the nurse-patient interaction. He has never experienced burnout or secondary stress unlike his colleagues who often request to be away from work. Thus, Kemar does not exhibit any of the characteristics of compassion fatigue, which are burnout, acquired stress, and compassion satisfaction.

Theoretical Applications of the Concept

As nurses provide care for the sick, they need to understand their own health needs, as well as the factors that could threaten their emotional, spiritual, and physical health. For instance, nurses should be able to draw a distinction between the needs of the patient and their own well-being. The more nurses understand the factors that trigger compassion fatigue, the better they can be prepared to help patients regain their health. If nurses are overwhelmed by the needs of the patients, they may fall into the trap of compassion fatigue. Nurses should perform at optimal levels within the time allocated (Cocker & Joss, 2016). Nevertheless, they should ensure best outcomes for the patients. With the understanding of compassion fatigue in relation to the human caring framework, nurses can have an opportunity to relax, rejuvenate, and relieve stress. If nurses do not manage the stress that they experience their patients die or experience too much pain, they can get into a state that they might not endure any longer. They may lose the energy to work, compassion, and mental stability. Nevertheless, understanding the aspects of care that may cause unendurable tension, fatigue, and loss of compassion can help nurses perform better and improve care quality outcomes.


As a future Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), this paper helped me understand the circumstances in which I may develop compassion fatigue. I need to be aware of my own needs before giving care to my patients. Similarly, maintaining a work-life balance is essential in preventing this phenomenon. Watson’s theory is critical in preventing and managing compassion fatigue as it argues for a healthy nurse-patient relationship. Nurses who are aware of their own needs are more likely to discuss them with other professionals, which makes problem solving easy. It is imperative to be compassionate with the patients, but this does not imply ignoring one’s personal needs.

• Burnout
• Caring
• Comfort
• Compassion
• Compassion fatigue
• Self-care
• Sensory overload


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