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Compassion Fatigue in Pediatric and Intensive Care Units

Those junior medical employees who work under stressful conditions, for instance, in intensive care units, have a high workload, and, in addition to physical tiredness, nurses experience moral burnout, often referred to as compassion fatigue. While interacting with severe cases constantly, healthcare workers’ stresses accumulate, which may cause nervous breakdowns and other problems. To prevent professional burnout and other negative outcomes, increasing resilience is necessary. Creating an enabling working environment and implementing effective organizational practices can help minimize the effects of nursing compassion fatigue.

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Nevertheless, this task requires an integrated approach to the solution because, by reducing the time of interaction with patients and remove shifts, heads of clinics may face a decrease in the quality of healthcare services. Despite the fact that, as Sacco, Ciurzynski, Harvey, and Ingersoll (2015) state, many caregivers experience compassion satisfaction by helping those in need, excessive workload can lead to fatigue and professional burnout. Accordingly, creating favorable conditions for the interaction of nurses with severe cases is a necessary task in intensive care units, pediatric departments, and other facilities where the risk of stress and anxiety is increased.

The likelihood of compassion fatigue is high in pediatrics due to emotional stresses that employees experience when interacting with the target audience. According to the study conducted by Berger, Polivka, Smoot, and Owens (2015), in trauma departments for young patients, the risk of this problem among nurses is 39% (p. E11). This indicator is the factor determining the need for an urgent solution to this issue in order to avoid professional burnout.

Emotional pain lowers the personnel performance and demotivates to implement immediate duties effectively. As valuable interventions aimed at increasing staff resilience to compassion fatigue, Berger et al. (2015) suggest paying attention to special educational courses and programs designed to enhance nurses’ understanding of the importance of their activities. Establishing teamwork among caregivers can be another valuable initiative. Berger et al. (2015) note that promoting nursing collaboration and a supportive work environment is an important aspect of organizational performance in case of high risks of burnout. Therefore, heads of clinics and pediatric trauma departments should encourage the establishment of positive relationships among colleagues and the provision of timely psychological assistance.

For nurses in intensive care units, the risks of compassion fatigue are high due to constant interaction with severe cases and consistently high workload complicating the effective implementation of immediate duties. Sacco et al. (2015) compare burnout and satisfaction rates among employees in these departments and note some determinants that characterize certain trends. For instance, according to the study by the authors, nurses with higher educational degrees are less affected by compassion fatigue due to their better preparedness for difficult labor conditions (Sacco et al., 2015).

However, each case is individual, and additional indicators are to be taken into account – employee experience, emotional stability, and other criteria. As one of the possible factors to reduce the likelihood of compassion fatigue among nursing staff in intensive care units, Sacco et al. (2015) mention “understanding the elements of professional quality of life” (p. 32). This indicator influences the working environment positively and can be implemented as a mechanism to prevent moral burnout of junior medical staff. Thus, compassion fatigue is an issue that deserves attention in the healthcare sector and requires taking relevant measures, particularly in pediatric departments and intensive care units.


Berger, J., Polivka, B., Smoot, E. A., & Owens, H. (2015). Compassion fatigue in pediatric nurses. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 30(6), e11-e17. Web.

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Sacco, T. L., Ciurzynski, S. M., Harvey, M. E., & Ingersoll, G. L. (2015). Compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue among critical care nurses. Critical Care Nurse, 35(4), 32-42. Web.

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