Type of Document Thesis Author Alexander, Melanie Kaye URN etd-11132006-161703 Title Compassion Fatigue for Emergency Department Nurses who provided care during and after the hurriane season of 2005 Degree Master of Science Department Nursing, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Laurie Grubbs Committee Chair Linda Sullivan Committee Member Michael Barbour Committee Member Sally Karioth Committee Member Keywords
- Compassion fatigue
- Emergency Nurses
Date of Defense 2006-11-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractHealth care individuals such as emergency preparedness teams, clergy, nurses, and physicians are first responders during times of disaster. These types of responders are at risk to develop compassion stress, compassion fatigue, or even burnout.
Compassion stress is a result of the cumulative demands of experiencing and helping the suffering; compassion fatigue is defined as “a state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically, and emotionally, as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress” (Figley, 1995). Burnout is a gradual process that occurs over time as the accumulation of fatigue leads to a state of exhaustion; “being physically and emotionally fed up with the job as a result of general dissatisfactions as a worker” (Figley, 2005). The symptoms of burnout include “depression, cynicism, boredom, loss of compassion and discouragement” (Figley, 1995).
This purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and effects of compassion fatigue in Emergency Department nurses following a natural disaster. The study was a descriptive exploratory study asking nurses to examine their perceptions, feelings and experiences after caring for hurricane disaster victims following the 2005 hurricane season. A total of 28 registered nurse respondents met the eligibility inclusion criteria. The instrument utilized for the study was the PROFESSIONAL QUALITY OF LIFE SCALE Compassion Satisfaction and Fatigue Subscales—Revision IV (ProQOL) developed by Figley (1996) and revised by Stamm (1997-2005).
The prevalence of compassion stress, compassion fatigue and/or burnout experienced by registered nurses was analyzed using a Spearman’s rho, and Kendall’s tau b test was conducted. Emergency department nurses in this study showed low risk for compassion fatigue. The nurses demonstrated compassion satisfaction in the care they had provided during the aftermath of the hurricane season of 2005. Analysis showed no significant correlations between age, gender, marital status, employments status, number of years as a nurse, education level and/or previous disaster experience. There was a positive correlation between number of years as a nurse and age. This relationship demonstrated as the age went up in number of years, the level of compassion satisfaction also increased. A T-test and a Levene Test for Equality of Variances with assumed equal variance was conducted to determine if gender differences existed between male and
female found no specific correlations between genders. Older more experienced nurses demonstrated higher levels of compassion satisfaction.
Future research should be aimed at hard hit disaster areas, as this study examined an outlying region and may have underrepresented true risk to disaster areas. The risk for compassion stress/fatigue may have been attenuated due to the retrospective design and the year-long time span from disaster to the completion of data collection. Future evaluation of compassion stress/fatigue should examine the personal coping mechanisms, level of expertise, age, and experience of the nurse. Research should be aimed at discovering the link between these variables, focusing on nurses’ ability to continue delivering care during times of unusually high demand. Employer programs should be developed for prevention of compassion stress/fatigue in those nurses who are most at risk.
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