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Developing a Systemic Program for Compassion Fatigue

Potter, Patricia PhD, RN, FAAN; Deshields, Teresa PhD; Rodriguez, Sean MBA

doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0b013e3182a2f9dd
Original Articles

The effort in hospitals to improve the patient experience has yielded a new impetus to address compassion fatigue (CF), a combination of secondary traumatic stress and burnout. Over the last 3 years, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has developed a systemic program for CF resiliency. An initial evaluation of the extent to which CF was affecting the hospital's oncology staff led to the formal implementation of a resiliency program for oncology registered nurses. The success of that program ultimately led to the implementation of a hospital-wide resiliency program, designed to help professional caregivers understand CF, recognize the physical, mental, and emotional effects of stress, and adopt resiliency strategies. The voluntary program has been very well received by participants, and a formal evaluation shows promising results with a decline in secondary traumatic stress and burnout among participants. Developing an institutional culture of recognition and support for CF is critical for health care organizations. Establishing such a culture may help managers proactively create work environments that provide opportunities for connection and support among staff. Compassion fatigue training allows professional caregivers to reconnect to their personal mission and then truly begin to connect with an organization's values and mission.

Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University (Dr Deshields), Barnes-Jewish Hospital (Dr Potter and Mr Rodriguez), St Louis, Missouri.

Correspondence: Patricia Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, One Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, St Louis, MO 63110 (

The authors thank J. Eric Gentry and acknowledge the funding provided by the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in support of the compassion fatigue program.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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