Sierra is glad her days off have finally come. She loves being a nurse, but after working two years on the oncology unit, the pressures of changing shifts, frequent understaffing and late stays to finish paperwork are taking their toll. Sierra frequently feels tired, and the attitudes of coworkers irritate her. But she knows she will be refreshed and ready to face work again after her vacation at the beach.
Eric, out of school five years, is feeling comfortable with his role as a staff nurse on a busy step-down unit, as well as with the charge position he took on weekend shifts. However, the days off that used to bring Eric back to work ready to give his best don't refresh him anymore. He enjoys work, but seeing people with severe cardiac disease bothers him. He is angry at his patients for what he perceives to be their increasingly demanding natures or unwillingness to make lifestyle changes. Although his friends are supportive and listen to his frustrations, talking with them isn't as helpful as it used to be.
Rita just can't shake the fatigue, sadness and emptiness that consumes her waking hours. When she first started working on the emergency room trauma team, it was exciting responding to emergencies. Now, as the patients come in, it almost feels as though she's being injured. Sometimes she wakes up after dreaming that she hears cries of pain or sees patients' and family members' agonized faces in her sleep. Rita knows she is one of the best nurses on the unit, but feels that if she would learn more, try a little harder and think faster she could decrease the patients' suffering. She wishes she could be like some of her coworkers who seem to numb their feelings and remain focused on the technical aspects of what needs to be done.
Do you or a colleague seem overly stressed about work, constantly fatigued, critical or depressed? You may have compassion fatigue. Find out how God offers help.
Fran McHolm, MSN, RN, is a Nurses Christian Fellowship staff member and coordinator of NCF ministry in Ohio and Michigan.
Fran has 20 years of teaching experience. She attends First Friends Church of Canton, Ohio, where she serves as a parish nurse and a life group leader.