Present at the Bedside, Present in Life: Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

April 11, 2019
Patricia Jakel, RN, MN, AOCN

Mindfulness is key when it comes to preventing compassion fatigue.

Oncology nurses often encounter patients who are experiencing some of the darkest times in their lives, and it is important that they develop ways to cope, explained Patricia Jakel, RN, MN, AOCN, a clinical nurse specialist at UCLA Healthcare System. Jakel referred to an essay by a palliative care specialist that said if [nurses] are present in the moment with their patients, then outside of working hours, they will be more present and mindful, too. In doing so, nurses can decrease the amount of compassion fatigue that they experience. Jakel learned this firsthand when she went from oncology nurse to oncology patient.

Jakel also pointed out that compassion fatigue is different from burnout, though the two terms are often used interchangeably. Burnout has less to do with the patient, and can happen when oncology nurses get frustrated at staffing issues, pay, and other workplace conditions.