Caregiver fatigue has been a well recognized situation with families of long term illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it hasn’t been until recent years that caregiver fatigue has been recognized in health care workers, such as nurses and sometimes physicians. It is often referred to as compassion fatigue when applied to health care workers. Nurses are especially vulnerable to compassion fatigue especially due to their close care and relationship with patients each and every day. Those nurses especially at risk are nurses who work in high acuity areas such as intensive care units and the emergency department where outcomes are not often considered “positive”.
Caregiver fatigue is often characterized by depression, poor work attitude and general lack of empathy to their patients and the peers. The persons tend to be very irritable and demonstrate periods of poor coping with periods of outbursts. Suffers often describe difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. The symptoms often creep up on the sufferer and is usually recognized by those around them before the person themselves. You know that cranky nurse you hate getting report from… she may be suffering too.