Hoping to counter stress and compassion fatigue, one hospital has created private spaces for its nurses to process their emotions before returning to their patients, refocused. At least one study links better nursing environments to better patient outcomes.
Crying at work is traditionally frowned upon, but I'm going to put myself out on a limb and admit I've done it. And, if you're being completely honest, you've done it, too.
After a code, a patient's death, a scolding from a physician, or a day when nothing seems to go right, many of us have sought solace in the nearest linen closet, locker room, or bathroom stall and let the tears flow.
In fact, just last week, this photo of an ED physician grieving the loss of a patient, popped-up in my Facebook feed, courtesy of an ED nurse friend. When someone who isn't a healthcare professional commented that it's unreasonable to expect healthcare workers to jump back into their shifts after a patient's death as if nothing happened, my friend replied, "We do it every day."
But, this 'rub some dirt on it and get back into the game' mentality might not be serving our profession well.
A study published in 2011 found that in a sample of 182 oncology nurses, one-third demonstrated emotional exhaustion and reported low rates of personal accomplishment, one-quarter reported depersonalization, and a 50% reported levels of emotional distress.
"Compassion fatigue is a huge issue for us all in bedside nursing, and we as leaders need to look into and address that," says Jacklynn Lesniak, RN, MS, BSN, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, IL.
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.