Kelsey Bates, APRN
Compassion is the cornerstone of good medical care. It is no secret that many health care providers experience fatigue. This leads to burn out doing what they do best, caring for others. Especially, in the current times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our workload was challenging before the events of 2020. Indeed, these challenges are now being compounded by the global pandemic. The ripple effects it has brought upon our nation and world. Aside form our patients, it is very important to remember to show yourself some compassion as well.
How do you know if you are lacking compassion?
Burnout has several causes:
- Not having enough of one’s own emotional resources to deal with work
2. A detached response towards those the individual is providing care to
3. Feelings of low personal accomplishment/lack of achievement (Hashem & Zeinoun, 2020)
With the description above, burnout is a recipe for disaster. Not only does burnout effect patients receiving the care, but also the ones giving the care. In fact, the whole care team can potentially be harmed.
Often times individuals don’t realize they are burnt out but their team members see their teammate is burned out. If we personally feel we are getting burned out or know someone on our team is experiencing burnout, something needs to happen. A burning flame can only last so long before, 1- it gets more fuel to persevere or 2- it goes out.
If you’re like many health care providers (myself included), we are good at showing compassion to others but sometimes we aren’t so great at showing it to ourselves.
One way to prevent burnout is to show ourselves that same compassion that we so freely give to others. What does the literature say about burnout and self-compassion?
A 2019 study performed by Babenko et al it determined that physicians who practice with a self-compassionate mindset have:
- A better professional overall wellbeing
- Greater work engagement
- Less exhaustion due to work demands
- Increased satisfaction in their professional life
Babenko et al. (2019) discuss a recent national survey completed by pediatric residents in the United States. The results revealed that over the long-term, self-compassion was directly correlated with lower stress levels and also burnout rates among the residents. How does one become self-compassionate? Many say self-compassion is a learned skill. It is definitely learned, however I think some people have an easier time learning and applying this skill than others. Meaning, for some self-compassion comes more naturally than for others. Remember to show yourself some compassion.
Need Help Showing Compassion?
Two individuals I highly recommend you look into are Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Chris Germer, a clinical psychologist and lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Both of these individuals have devoted much time and study into self-compassion and are leading experts in the field
of self-compassion. Likewise, Drs. Neff and Germer have developed self-compassion training courses called Mindful Self-Compassion. They each also have their own websites packed full of excellent resources to learn more about self compassion and how to apply the skill in everyday life. I also suggest you check out Dr. Neff’s and Dr. Germer’s websites.
Remember, you are only one person and as long as you are doing the best you can, that’s what matters. None of us are perfect and we never will be. You are human and therefore imperfect. Likewise it it important to take a step back and recharge your battery if you feel yourself getting burned out. Remember to show yourself some compassion.
I wanted to share this information on self-compassion with you all because I know burnout in the healthcare profession is very real, not only have I experienced a bit of it myself but I’ve seen colleagues and other providers experience it too. It’s not a fun road to travel. When we can learn to show ourselves compassion, life is much richer, not only for ourselves but those around us, as well.
Babenko, O., Mosewich, A. D., Lee, A., & Koppula, S. (2019). Association of physicians’ self-compassion with work engagement, exhaustion, and professional life satisfaction.
Medical Sciences, 7(29). doi:10.3390/medsci7020029
Hashem, Z., & Zeinoun, P. (2020). Self-compassion explains less burnout among healthcare
professionals. Mindfulness, 1–10. doi: 10.1007/s12671-020-01469-5
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