Compassion fatigue: a symptom of caring

listening to their anguished voices she too became undone and the lines of life etched in the palms of her hands faded in all the wrong places . . .

Crawshaw, Caitlin. 2009-09-12. “Caring workers pay price: Compassion fatigue flies under radar.” Edmonton Journal.

“Compassion fatigue is often associated with nurses, who care for the sick and dying, but any worker who regularly deals with human suffering can become desensitized and detached. Beyond employees in the obvious professions–such as social work, nursing and counselling–chaplains, teachers, humane workers, midwives, personal support workers, lawyers, workers at women’s shelters, journalists and even those manning the phones at social insurance organizations can also be affected. Even those caring for others outside of the workplace, such as an elderly parent or sick spouse, can feel drained of their emotional and physical energy. “People who provide care with compassion and empathy can experience compassion fatigue,” explains Devon Tayler, an Edmonton social worker and compassion fatigue consultant. “That’s the good news about it — it’s a consequence of caring, and human beings care for each other. The downside is, we often don’t recognize that cost.” Those who suffer from compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress disorder, often isolate themselves at work and limit communication with their clients or coworkers. They can become sick often and miss work, and ultimately become completely burned out, taking stress leave or quitting their jobs suddenly. “Burnout is a physical, social, emotional and spiritual situation where people have really lost themselves and lost meaning,” says Tayler. Those being cared for can also be severely affected. Some people with compassion fatigue start to dehumanize their patients, choosing to view them as case studies or clients, rather than as human beings. This can “block the story” of those receiving care and increase the likelihood of caregivers making mistakes. “We might gloss over something, thinking it’s not that important, when another person might think it really is important,” says Tayler. But this isn’t just a workplace problem. “Compassion fatigue impacts work . . . but it also impacts how we are in our families and in the community,” she says. Sufferers often stop doing the things they once enjoyed, as they feel utterly spent at day’s end. Many can do little more than zone out in front of the TV, disconnecting from their loved ones. Francoise Mathieu, a counsellor in Kingston, Ont., says awareness of compassion fatigue has improved since she started giving sessions on the subject in 2001, but many professionals still know very little about it. Also, she says students aren’t being prepared for this professional inevitability. “To me, it’s a huge issue that needs to be recognized as an occupational health and safety hazard in the workplace.” While compassion fatigue can be confusing for people who have dedicated their lives to the service of others, Mathieu assures people that it’s a symptom of caring. “The irony is that the best and most caring employees are the most at risk (Crawshaw 2009-09-12).”

Crawshaw, Caitlin. 2009-09-12. “Caring workers pay price: Compassion fatigue flies under radar.” Edmonton Journal.

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Storm Lantern 1999




Storm Lantern 1999

Originally uploaded by ocean.flynn

Flickr

This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Fantasy Palace, Iqaluit, Nunavut June 27, 2002

This is a partial truth, more like a flicktion, or a dream, or the virtual than the real. It’s not science or art, more like an invention or innovation. Pieces of this a flicktion are scattered throughout my semi-nomadic cybercamps like tiny inukshuk on a global landscape. It mimics visual anthropology but isn’t. It imitates ethnography but lacks the objectivity. There are words written, pictures taken of events, dates, settings, stages and characters without an author. Maybe it’s the wrong venue in a photo album of beaming faces, stunning scenery, professional photographers, travelers, techies, retirees. But we can all choose to follow each others sign posts in this cyberspace or move on. This is the power of this new social space spun in CyberWeb 2.0.

Cultural ethnographers are supposed to return to their academic spaces, sharpen their methodological tools to a tip that almost cuts the paper they write on (and too often the culture, pop or otherwise they are writing about). You’re not supposed to return from the field with their your mind numbed from the frosted words of those who were seduced by the gold mine of benign colonialism, their voices confident, mocking, paternalistic, jaded by years, or decades of northern experience (1970s-2002). Your were supposed to leave the field with the pace of your beating heart uninterrupted inside your embodied self. You weren’t supposed to leave your a chunk of your soul in that graveyard in Pangnirtung on the Cumberland Sound. This is just lack of professionalism. Get a grip. Just write that comprehensive, proposal, dissertation. Move on. It’s just the way it is.
In this coffee shop sipping a cup of freshly brewed French Roast, (better than a Vancouver Starbucks!), SWF listened with her eyes. She was compassionate but ever so slightly distant. She doesn’t seem to realize how much others from the outside can perceive her knowledge. It is what at times makes her intimidating. Her three generation life story is the stuff of Inuit social history. She seems to almost be unaware of how important that story is. She was surprised that the First Nations cared about the creation of Nunavut. I remember our first class together. She spoke so softly but she was so firm, so insistent, modest and dignified. The wails I had heard by the open graves that still echo in my mind, were all too familiar to her. Slowly, insistently she explained to me as if I really needed to listen, remember, register this. “We do not need your tears. We have enough of our own. We do not need you to fix this. We need your respect. We need you to not make it worse. We need you to listen to us, really listen. Alone, with no resources an elder has been taking them out on the land. She gets no funding. What she has done works. The funding is going elsewhere on projects that are promoted by the insiders. Inuit like her are not insiders.”

Uploaded by ocean.flynn on 2 Dec 2006, 11.00AM MDT.