Compassion Fatigue vs. Longevity  

Compassion Fatigue Definition

Compassion fatigue is often the final result of an accumulation of stressors such as prolonged, intense and continuous exposure to patients and their stressors. Compassion fatigue can be described when the compassionate energy that is used, exceeds a person’s ability to be restored and rejuvenated. (Coetzee & Klopper, 2010)



  • Increasingly stressful and emotionally taxing situations.
  • Abortion minded clients that have chosen to abort especially after you have invested much time and emotional energy.
  • Heavy workload.
  • Role ambiguity.
  • Not always the stressors themselves but how the person deals with them.
  • Not feeling supported.
  • Compassion fatigue can have a cumulative effect.


  • Physical– the connection between mind and body is strong. Physical signs include exhaustion, insomnia, dizziness, lightheadedness, backaches, muscle aches, digestive problems, skin problems, chronic headaches or migraines, loss of strength, diminished performance, increased physical complaints and weariness
  • Emotional – frustration, depression, feeling stuck, irritability toward coworkers and patients, cynicism, bitterness, being negative, hopelessness, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed. Compulsive activities such as long work hours, gambling, over eating, smoking, drinking, drug use can all be signs of emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion can also lead to paranoia, detachment, outbursts and hostility.
  • Intellectual– disorderliness, boredom, impaired ability to concentrate, decrease in job enthusiasm and work quality. Ineffectiveness in work environment, absenteeism and perceived helplessness.
  • Spiritual– not having a purpose in life, loss of ideals, lack of joy, decreased self-esteem, feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. It is important to recognize a change in your spiritual life because one sign of compassion fatigue may be a lack of spiritual awareness.
  • Relational – Depression, irritability and being distant all have effects on our relationships. Relationships, emotional and personal struggles such as grief, also increase compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue can rob you of your ability to deal with relationships at home.


Coping strategies

  1. Acknowledge it, be aware of the signs and symptoms.
  2. Pray– Faith and prayer can provide a sheltering function –Psalm 36:7 “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…Casting all you cares upon him for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

  1. Have an attitude of thankfulness each day. “Rejoice in the Lord always”…Phil 4:5 “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6
  2. Share with others—ask for prayer from coworkers, friends and seek professional help if needed. Being able to share some of the things we experience with someone totally detached gives us a good perspective that what we are going through is profound and intense at times.
  3. Confess sins daily—“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—This is huge and can be overlooked. This will do so much to lighten our burdens
  4. Debrief-We pray at the beginning of the shift but it may be wise to pray at the end of the shift as well to “de- brief” Maybe not in a formal way but encouraging volunteers to pray with each other or the director.

This may be helpful especially if there is a hard ABM client. A prayer of “we know this is in your hands, you hold life and death, we pray for…, please take this burden, please remind me to pray. We trust you in this. Keep us strong.”

  1. Be proactive– spend time analyzing a problem situation, pray for creativity and help in changing it. Don’t be a martyr. Employ action oriented problem solving.
  2. Realistic goals-Make a realistic list and goals for the day. When it is done, take satisfaction that you have done this day’s work and that means you are caught up. If you can’t accomplish a task then it becomes tomorrows work.
  3. Make boundaries– this allows you to have a clear perspective on home and work life. Setting aside a specific time for work, recreation, exercise, good nutrition, sleep. Hiking, walking, golf, biking can be so restorative. Seek joy by serving others in our home and by being with friends. Don’t be self-centered. Have a notebook handy to jot down work thoughts or ideas when they occur and then try to let them go.
  4. Caritas oblivion which is a concept that allows us to forget a client that has chosen abortion. We can’t dwell on what ifs. If God brings her to mind pray for her but if we are dwelling on or obsessing over a client then we need to seek help through prayer and each other.
  5. Emotional relief can be found through laughter, crying, sharing or by being alone. It is important to find things what helps you cope.


Recognizing the signs of compassion fatigue and being proactive in dealing with them through prayer, self-care, change, and colleague support is vital for us to continue in our work. Satan would rather have us have a diffuse general non identified anxiety. Because we can’t do anything about that and it will make us ineffective. If we identify the problem, be proactive, confess, pray and seek help then we will be able to effectively do the work that God has set before us.

Psalm 51

Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Michelle Tussing, BSN, RN, RDMS
Sparrow Solutions Consultant
Gilbert, AZ




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