Compassion Fatigue: A Requisite Nursing Agenda

Deborah A. Boyle, MSN, RN, AOCNS®, FAAN



Nurses have a longstanding history of witnessing the tragedy experienced by patients and families; however, their own reactions to profound loss and premature death have not been systematically addressed. There is a paucity of research describing interventions to prevent or minimize the ramifications of repeated exposure to traumatic events in the clinical workplace. Compassion fatigue is a contemporary label affixed to the concept of personal vicarious exposure to trauma on a regular basis. Yet this phenomenon of compassion fatigue lacks clarity. In this article, the author begins by describing compassion fatigue and distinguishing compassion fatigue from burnout. Next she discusses risk factors for, and the assessment of compassion fatigue. The need to support nurses who witness tragedy and workplace interventions to confront compassion fatigue are described.

Purpose/Goal: To review the concept of nurse compassion fatigue, to enhance awareness of its characteristics and etiologies, and to delineate potential interventions.


1. Describe key definitional elements of compassion fatigue.
2. Discern unique risk factors for compassion fatigue in nurses.
3. Distinguish between burnout and compassion fatigue.
4. Give examples of interventions that address work/life balance, education, and work setting strategies to counter compassion fatigue.


Deborah Boyle is an Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist/Consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. She received an associate’s degree in nursing from Orange County Community College, State University of New York (Middletown, NY), a baccalaureate degree in health education from Southern Connecticut State University (Hamden, CT), and a Master of Science in Nursing degree from Yale University (New Haven, CT). Debi has received numerous awards from the Oncology Nursing Society and is a frequent lecturer nationally and internationally. In 1999, she was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nursing, being cited for her contributions in advocating for the special needs of cancer survivors and the elderly with cancer, for increasing awareness of the psychosocial needs of patients and families coping with cancer, and for championing the role of the advanced practice nurse. The author of nearly 200 publications, Deborah recently published her third book, Nurturance for Nurses: Reflections for Compassionate Healers.

The planners and author of this continuing nursing education activity have disclosed no relevant financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this CNE.

Contact Hours: 1.49

Expiration Date: 12/31/2014


Member Price: $0.00
Non-Member Price: $20.00

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