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Tenn. nursing professor says pandemic could cause compassion fatigue

Dr. Harris encouraged any front-line workers who feel disconnected to speak up and reach out for help.
(KGNS)
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 8:34 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/WTVF) - Healthcare workers across the U.S. have been treating COVID-19 patients for sixth months far.

Dr. Chelsia Harris, the executive director of Lipscomb University’s School of Nursing, said this could cause emotional distress on healthcare workers.

“There is a devoted time that we spend on compassion fatigue and burnout,” Harris said. “A lot of times we tell ourselves that couldn’t happen to me, or I could never become fatigued of my compassion, that’s why I do what I do, or that’s how I got into this,” Harris, who teaches about the side effects of prolonged exposure to difficult situations said.

According to Harris, it is common for healthcare workers to experience a form of compassion fatigue. Harris said compassion fatigue is the physical, emotional and spiritual result of chronic self-sacrifice or elongated exposure to tough situations that result in a person being unable to love, nurture, care for or empathize with another person’s suffering.

“It’s when you give and give of yourself until hypothetically there is nothing left to give,” Harris told WTVF.

Harris said health care providers are working tirelessly and have been exposed to a lot of failed attempts or tragedies that could lead them to feel numb.

The professor recommends nursing students look for signs they or their colleagues are losing empathy for patients.

“Maybe they start having abdominal pain, headaches or are calling into work when they typically wouldn’t do that. Maybe they’re just blue or down,” she said.

Harris encouraged any front-line workers who feel disconnected to speak up and reach out for help.

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