2016 Winning Essay

The 2016 A Nurse I Am Scholarship winners were asked to address the following:
As nurses continually interact with sick people, they may develop "compassion fatigue" over time and become hardened to the reality of difficulty and pain in patients' lives.
(1) Describe how one of the nurses in the "A Nurse I Am" videos overcame this challenge.
(2) How did their view of their patients help them maintain their compassion?
(3) Explain how you plan to maintain compassion in your nursing work over the long term.

Jessica Lusk

The State University of New York Adirondack

Nurses have a lot of job descriptions; they have to have a big memory, be able to balance big patient loads, have to be able to multitask, and they must work well with others. All the while, they also have to show kind, caring, compassionate personalities to their patients. With all that responsibility it is no wonder why some nurses experience compassion fatigue. It is hard to maintain a compassionate outlook with all patients after seeing the hard reality of the pain of some patients. Different nurses have different ways to overcome this professional challenge. I have seen examples of how to battle this type of fatigue, and I have a plan to avoid this problem in my future career.

In the "A Nurse I Am" videos, Mona overcomes "compassion fatigue" and maintains her compassion because she treats her patients like family. She knows her patients without looking at a chart. One of her patients even said that they are "not statistics" to her, they are human beings. She will drive to her patients to give them the care they need, like anyone who would do for their family member. She will sit down and talk with the patients at their level instead of standing up and lecturing them. When you can treat someone like family I believe it is harder to not treat them with the respect and compassion you would want your blood family members to receive. Her job doesn't end at the doctor's office, and she recognizes that, like a sick family member, her patients' pain and treatment continues even when they're out at a restaurant or doing normal daily activities.

She also seems to prevent compassion fatigue by knowing when to take care of herself. She realizes when she need to do non-medical activities. She spends time with her husband and does yard work that helps her disconnect from her work load and reconnects with herself and nature.

My plan to maintain my professional compassion is to do a lot of the same things that Mona does. After working in the healthcare field for a few years now, I have realized that work is easier when it is basically spending time with people you care about, and you can't really care about someone until you have truly gotten to know them. I'm going to make an effort to know my patients without looking in their chart, to be connected to them in the ways that make me a good nurse. I'm also going to stay attuned to myself. If I start to realize that I am becoming hardened to reality I am going to take a step back and see what I need to do to take care of myself so that I can give my patients the care and compassion they deserve. I am also going to listen to others' feedback and ask my peers and supervisors if they think that I'm doing what is necessary to be compassionate for my patients. If I hear that I'm not doing a good enough job of staying attuned to my patients' and my own needs, I will re-evaluate what I am doing and make a change.

Nursing is a challenging field. I have loved my time as a nurse and I cannot see myself in any other profession. I have had to overcome many challenges to get to where I am now, and I consider my compassion to be one of my great strengths. But I will be alert to the dangers of compassion fatigue and make sure to change my own behaviors as I need to serve my patients in the best way that I can. I will be like Mona, and I will get to know my patients and take time for myself. I will always strive to be the best nurse and care provider that I can be.

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