Nursing Home Employees and “Compassion Fatigue”

A recent article in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and Assisted Living describes how compassion fatigue and grief are the unrecognized downside to working in the nursing home industry.

Says the columnist Patricia Smith, who is the founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project:

Compassion fatigue and grief are the unrecognized downside to working in the nursing home industry. When sufferers are overburdened by emotions, they want to escape from work, end up feeling isolated from coworkers and unable to participate in the daily give-and-take of the job.

The publisher is a well-known supporter of the long-term care industry, and not necessarily the patients who reside in a nursing home but the owners who profit from the business of elder care. Yet, even nursing home owners appear to acknowledge that “compassion fatigue” is a risk of admitting too many residents per nurse,   excessively long hours, low pay, and lack of appreciation by employers for a very difficult job.

“Compassion fatigue” is also common theme in many cases of nursing home neglect.

It hurts the residents who suffer from inadequate staffing. Even worse, it results in substandard care and the “appearance” of an uncaring staff.

Compassion fatigue also leads to constant turnover in staffing which directly, and negatively, effects patient care.

My Solution:  First, nursing home owners need to hire a sufficient number of nurses and aides to take care of the residents.  No one aide can care for 15 residents (they are often assigned many more) during their shift.  Second, those same owners need to put a little less money in their pockets and increase the pay to the staff who perform a hard, difficult, and important job.  Third, nursing home owners must recognize the hard work performed by the front-line health providers.

A little recognition and appreciation by nursing home owners will go a long way to both reducing compassion fatigue and improving patient care.

Dan Frith

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.