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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Burn out...or compassion fatigue?

I really have to say...after all those weeks of intense caring for families and patients, it came to an abrupt end.  Being a hospice nurse is like that.  

I went to a couple of funerals, cried my eyes out with the families, sent notes to tell them what a great job they did caring for their loved ones and I went home.  I was drained and feeling exhausted.  

Life is funny like that...you think you can't do one more thing or tolerate any more sadness and then the sun comes up again another day and I find myself on another couch, explaining life and death and feeling energized again.  

So it goes...I have a few more patients that are making the most of their days, families that are doing a great job and me, in the background cheering them on.

Compassion fatigue...I was thinking I had that.  In my sadness,  I had decided that I care too much, do too much and I have to create better boundaries when it comes to my job.  I even told Jim that...I am not going to give people my phone number, blah...blah..blah.  

Then I rested and my special folks passed away and I missed them and missed the caring for them and their families.  I enjoy caring for people and about people and I also enjoy doing things to make someones life easier.  I decided that is what my life is about.  I loved caring for my kids (when I wasn't ready to kill them) and I love to help my patients.

So yeah, I guess I get "compassion fatigue" at times, but doesn't anyone who cares for someone?  In the old days, I think they called it "burn out" and Lord knows, I have been "burnt out" at times too. 

In my time to process the last 6 weeks, I figured out a few things.  It's my job to care too much and I get paid for it.   How many of us have the opportunity to care so much for a family at such a difficult time in life and make a difference?  Sure, it's natural to get too tired, too sad and want to sadness to end.  I also realized that life is short for us who don't see the end coming, but really short if you do.  What better to do then to connect on a deeper level at that time.  There is nothing better.

I have had so many people ask me, "how do you do that?" and  "isn't so hard"...and to them I say yes but then I say no.  I am the cheerleader, the supporter, the idea lady...I get to help while they go through the most difficult time in their lives.  I ask myself, "How do these families do this" and make sure that I honor how hard it is. 

So yeah, I get burnt out, I get compassion fatigue after I lose a patient...but I also get a feeling of love, and deep respect for the families that see it through.  I also get such love and respect from families as they treat me like their own, and that settles the feelings of fatigue and lets me know it is what I am called to do.

What are you supposed to do?  Is it hard?  Is it worth it?  I know the exhaustion and sadness that I endure at times is...and to fall in love with each family is worth it as well.  

I just hope the families get as much love and respect from me that I get from them because in the end, and I mean the end...isn't that what life is about?  

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry