Examining Predictors of Compassion Fatigue in Intensive Care Nurses
Background: Registered nurses (RN) working in intensive care units (ICU) care for some of the sickest patients with the highest acuity within hospital settings. Due to the nature of their work and proximity to patient trauma they are at risk for developing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is defined as a secondary traumatic stress reaction which results from a deep involvement with a primarily traumatized person and is described as a work-related stress response in healthcare providers. Compassion fatigue negatively impacts nurses, patients, and organizations with significant implications for the nursing profession. Research focusing on the predictors of nurses’ compassion fatigue in ICUs is limited. Purpose: To test a theoretical model examining selected predictors (exposure to patient suffering, nurses’ age, nurses’ years of experience in ICU, managerial support) of compassion fatigue in RNs working in ICU. Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional survey design was conducted with a sample of 81 RNs working in an ICU in Southeastern Ontario. Participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire including demographic characteristics, Satisfaction with my Manager Scale, and Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale. Results: Participants reported a moderate level of compassion fatigue with 48% reporting mild levels and 39% reporting high or severe levels. Testing of the theoretical model found 18% of the variance in participants’ compassion fatigue was explained by three predictors (exposure to patient suffering, nurses’ years of experience in ICU, managerial support). However, only managerial support was a significant predictor in the final model. Conclusion: The major contribution of this study is the broadening of our understanding of nurses’ compassion fatigue in ICU. The study findings suggest that nurses working in ICU value managerial support to help minimize compassion fatigue. This includes managers being visible, consulting with staff, providing praise and recognition, and where able, being flexible with work schedules. Improving managerial support in ICU environments may help nurses remain empathetic and provide compassionate care.