Christina S Melvin

International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 18, Iss. 12, 20 Dec 2012, pp 606 - 611

Background: Emerging evidence describes some of the heavy tolls that health professionals experience as they deal with the continual loss of patients. Each patient and family has particular needs (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual) and is deserving of expert end-of-life care, and it is this intensity of need that places nurses at risk of professional compassion fatigue (PCF). Aim: This pilot study aimed at further exploration of the prevalence of PCF among hospice and palliative care nurses, as well as the nature of its effects and any coping strategies that nurses adopt. Methodology: A descriptive qualitative study was undertaken using semi-structured interviews with six highly experienced, purposively sampled nurses from a home health agency in northeast USA. Results: All six of the participants recognised the risks
of developing PCF, and one was clearly experiencing PCF at the time of interview. Signs and symptoms were described and strategies for avoiding and alleviating PCF were discussed. Conclusion: There are clear physical and emotional health consequences for nurses who provide hospice and palliative care over extended periods of time. Further research is needed into the extent of the problem, specific causes, and coping strategies.

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