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Compassion, Healthcare Experience Matters

Tackling Compassion Fatigue, an Interview with Katie Owens

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Today’s guest on Healthcare Experience Matters is Katie Owens, president of the Healthcare Experience Foundation. Katie joins us for a discussion about compassion fatigue and its impact on healthcare workers. 

Compassion fatigue is often conflated with burnout. Both burnout and compassion fatigue have the potential to significantly hamper the morale of folks who have dedicated their lives to serving others. This is especially true in the time of COVID-19. 

“At its core, [compassion fatigue] is an interpersonal, physical, and mental exhaustion. It’s an emotional withdrawal experienced by those exposed to trauma or extended stress over a period of time,” Katie said. 

It may sound ironic, but according to Katie, compassion itself is the answer to fighting compassion fatigue. 

“When we can grow our skills, empathy, and sense of self-compassion, we can combat compassion fatigue and be more interpersonally compassionate with ourselves and others,” she added. 

Signs of Compassion Fatigue

There are many red flags of compassion fatigue for healthcare workers. These signs include: 

  • Feeling overwhelmed, apathetic, and numb to a situation you ordinarily would not have felt numb about previously.
  • Sleep loss. 
  • Feelings of self-doubt.
  • As you may have recognized, these signs are very similar to the signs of burnout. 

    “Compassion fatigue is similar to burnout, it’s just a different degree of impact on an individual,” Katie said. 

    Compassion Fatigue’s Impact 

    Compassion fatigue is a part of the human condition. You are far from alone if it’s impacting your career or life. 

    Healthcare workers have demanding jobs that are often times on the front lines of this global pandemic. With that in mind, it’s understandable that self-care and personal wellness have taken a back seat for many of us during these trying times.

    The truth is that no one person is exempt from feelings of compassion fatigue. Having an awareness about it might just be the first step in ensuring its damages are mitigated. 

    “Compassion fatigue can happen to any one at any time in their career,” Katie said. “It happens when you are truly burning that candle at both ends and not taking the opportunity for self-care, self-compassion, and establishing daily habits that renew and refresh.”

    Compassionate Leadership

    A compassionate leader might just be the spark your institution needs to battle the ongoing challenges of compassion fatigue, disengagement, low morale, and burnout. In the time of COVID-19, these issues have never seemed to run more rampant among caregivers.

    Compassionate leaders foster a culture of collaboration and build deep levels of trust between team members. These leaders have the power to build loyalty among their peers and the patients they serve.

    Opening your leadership potential through compassion can assist the teams you lead to achieve greater results, productivity, and success. Compassionate leadership is a must in today's healthcare environment. You can learn about the inaugural Certificate Program in Compassionate Leadership by clicking here.

    Learn More 

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    If you found today's podcast interesting, some recent Healthcare Experience Matters episodes that you might also want to consider listening to are as follows:

  • Delivering the Best Healthcare Experience Possible in the Face of COVID-19
  • More COVID? More than I Can Take?
  • Practicing Mindfulness for Better Patient Experiences
  • How to Reduce Physician and Healthcare Worker Burnout
  • Compassion, Healthcare Experience Matters