Compassion fatigue and the impact on my burnout

Compassion fatigue causes nurse practitioner burnout

Compassion fatigue is a condition in which you feel decreased empathy or compassion for other people.

Signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue are very similar to nurse practitioner burnout. Healthcare providers may feel numb, detached, and depersonalization. Compassion fatigue can be a result of nurse practitioner burnout.

When I was burned out from healthcare, I struggled with compassion fatigue. I used to be a very kind, patient, and compassionate person. Empathy, or the ability to understand what others are going through, has always been one of my strengths. I was able to put myself in other’s shoes and understand what they were going through.

But when I was burned out, I no longer cared about what others were going through. I didn’t show compassion to my patients who were usually hospitalized after a life altering event (i.e. a major surgery, severe sickness, MVA, etc.). When I was burned out, I became impatient with my patients, my spouse, and my children.

I just didn’t care.

I struggled with compassion fatigue as a result of burnout. I actually didn’t even know I was burned out until one day at work. I was working on a busy, acute care floor. I was on my supposed to be 30 minutes (but who actually has the time to take 30 minutes) lunch break. I was in the break room when I noticed a piece of paper on the table. Picking it up as a shoveled food into my mouth, I began to read. I don’t even remember the title of the article or who wrote it, but it was an article from a medical magazine about compassion fatigue. It described what compassion fatigue was and that healthcare providers were prone to it.

Then the article gave a check list of the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue.

I check marked every single box.

It was that moment that I realized I was burned out from nursing. I hadn’t even known I was struggling with compassion fatigue or burnout. Sure, I knew I hadn’t felt normal the previous few months, but I related it to lack of sleep, taking care of a toddler, or the busyness of work.

Putting a label on my mental, physical, emotional exhaustion, my feeling of detachment from my patients, my family, and even myself, made my burnout realistic. I became aware that something needed to change. Diagnosing myself with compassion fatigue, helped me to make the changes to overcome nurse practitioner burnout.

It took time. It took energy. It took prioritizing self-care. Giving myself a break. Standing up for myself. Setting the necessary boundaries. But eventually, I was able to overcome the nurse practitioner burnout.

I can again empathize with my patients. I can care for my patients how I would want to be treated. I was able to enjoy working in healthcare. I was finally able to get my life back.

Struggling with compassion fatigue and nurse practitioner burnout changed my life. Not only do I take better care of my overall health, my family, my patients, but I get to be a voice for those struggling with nurse practitioner burnout through  The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner .

I hope this article sheds some light on compassion fatigue and helps nurse practitioners realize it’s ok to struggle. It’s also ok to overcome compassion fatigue and learn to love your job again.

For more help and support with nurse practitioner burnout, join  The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner Facebook Group . This is a group of equally burned-out nurse practitioners ready to support one another!

Erica D the NP is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed APRNs create work-life balance, conquer burnout, and advocate for themselves. The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner offers online courses, coaching, and support. Learn more at

For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at

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