Every day, nurses and other healthcare workers tend to patients and their families, providing care, comfort, security and more. It is a stressful situation that can, over time, create compassion fatigue, resulting in marked physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual changes that increase in intensity. A team of three nurses and one researcher from Kindred Hospital Dayton wanted to conduct a study to understand the impact of compassion fatigue in their facility. The team included nurses Violet Littlejohn, Beth Hock, and Diane Mehling, and researcher DeAnne French.

The study was designed to examine compassion fatigue within their setting and look at its effects among direct care nurses, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists. The study would use the Professional Quality of Life Self-Test with the results giving leadership insight into the need for interventions to combat compassion fatigue. There were 49 participants who completed the self test and a demographic questionnaire, with a mix of nurses, nursing assistants, and respiratory therapists, 11 who worked only in the ICU (22.9%), 27 who worked in med/surge (56.3%), and 10 who worked in both (20.8%). Data were collected from June 3, 2014 to June 17, 2014.

Ultimately, the study data indicated that direct care RNs, PCTs and RTs were not experiencing compassion fatigue as a result of providing care for their high acuity patients. Violet Littlejohn and another representative from Kindred Hospital Dayton, Linda Clagg, RN, BSN, presented the study findings during the poster session at the Kindred Clinical Impact Symposium 2014. In answer to a question from her audience, Littlejohn noted that she was surprised at the study results and that she had expected to find compassion fatigue within the facility. While the results indicate that the patients (and their families) weren’t causing compassion fatigue for the direct care staff, the findings also suggest the ongoing need for additional research to add to the body of knowledge on an important topic.

You can watch Violet Littlejohn present information from the study in this video.

The study team: Violet Littlejohn, MSN, RN; Beth Hock, RN, MSA, NE-BC, FACHE; Diane Mehling, RN, CCRC; DeAnne French, PhD.