Compassion fatigue, job burnout and caregiver stress are becoming more widely studied and publicized conditions, especially as it pertains to the health of front-line caregivers such as nurses and medical assistants. This is especially true at this moment, when the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking global healthcare to its very core. This makes it even more important to recognize the effects of and differences between these conditions on frontline healthcare professionals.
What are the differences between compassion fatigue, job burnout and caregiver stress?
While many people use the terms interchangeably and they do share commonalities, the three are not the same.
Compassion fatigue, also called “vicarious traumatization” or secondary traumatization, is the result of helping or wanting to help others who are experiencing physical or emotional trauma, or are under emotional duress. While it differs from burn-out, the two can co-exist.
Job burnout, on the other hand, is a cumulative process triggered by institutional stress, and doesn’t apply only to caregivers or those in caregiving professions. The stress results in emotional exhaustion and withdrawal alongside feelings of uselessness, cynicism and/or negativity. Unlike compassion fatigue, burnout isn’t trauma-related.
Caregiver stress is different from both compassion fatigue and job burnout but is still related. It is a syndrome marked by the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that results when a caregiver neglects their own health in order to care for others.
Nurses and others in the helping professions may experience any of the above syndromes in any combination.
How can aromatherapy help mitigate common symptoms of these conditions?
Ascents® clinical aromatherapy formulas are already used in many hospitals to comfort patients and provide symptomatic relief, and these same evidence-based formulas can be used to make professional caregivers more comfortable in their places of work. Both Ascents essential oil patches and inhaler sachets offer a convenient, discreet means to help mitigate the negative effects of caregiver stress.
For instance, Ascents Patches, available in Calm and Nausea Relief formulas, simply “peel and stick” to clean skin and will diffuse therapeutic scent for up to 8 hours. These single-use patches empower caregivers to care for themselves by helping them to symptoms of stress, anxiety, and nausea that is the result of malodors in an easy-to-use format.
Ascents essential oil inhaler sachets can be purchased in four evidence-based formulas to help relieve additional symptoms of caregiver stress, burnout, and fatigue. Besides Calm and Nausea Relief, Energize and Focus are also available and intended for on-the-go use. Ascents® inhalers release precisely metered doses of essential oils when squeezed and continue to dispense effective doses for hundreds of uses per unit for up to 30 days after opening.
How are hospitals and other healthcare environments affected when caregivers are negatively impacted by their job duties and environments?
Caregiver burnout, stress and fatigue can:
- Impact standards of patient care
- Affect relationships with colleagues
- Lead to more serious mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression
- Increase employee absenteeism and turnover
- Increase psychological injury claims
- Reduce productivity
These factors can also negatively impact hospital finances. Studies have estimated the cost of replacing a single bedside RN at between $36K and $57K, with potential total hospital losses of $4.9M to $7.6M due to nurse turnover.**
Ascents clinical aromatherapy helps hospitals care for their greatest asset -- frontline medical workers -- safely and affordably.
Using the same 100% pure, evidence-based essential oil formulas that comfort patients in hospitals across the country, healthcare organizations can reduce caregiver stress, burnout, and compassion fatigue in their workforces. Taking this small but important step to address caregivers’ emotional and physical needs on the job can ultimately create a more positive workplace environment, while minimizing key staff turnover and its potential financial impact on the organization as a whole.
*F. Cocker, N. Joss. Compassion Fatigue among Healthcare, Emergency and Community Service Workers: A Systematic Review Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jun; 13(6): 618. Published online 2016 Jun 22. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13060618
**C. T. Kovner, C. S. Brewer, F. Fatehi, J. Jun. What Does Nurse Turnover Rate Mean and What Is the Rate? Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/1527154414547953