My Passion and Compassion Fatigue

Becoming a nurse was a dream come true for me because I had always wanted to help people. But a few years into my career, I got burnout due to the increase in demand and workload.

Things got worse during COVID. I got irritated easily. I battled with anxiety every night. After work, I did not want to talk to anyone, even my husband. I no longer felt the joy that I used to have when working with my patients. It was scary. I felt like I was losing myself.

More than once, I wondered: “Is nursing not for me anymore?” I thought that I needed to change my mindset. However, no matter how much I tried, I still felt lost and hopeless.

Then one day, I woke up feeling unmotivated to do anything so I decided to have a “lazy day”. I ignored the chores and spent the whole day doing things that I love: reading, listening to music and playing games. That evening, I was delighted and full of energy. I felt more engaged during a conversation with my husband. It was an amazing feeling like I just found myself again. That was when I realized how important self-care was.

Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

I started to pay more attention to the activities that brought me joy and made time for it. One of those was exercising. No matter how busy my day was or how tired I felt after a 12-hour shift, I still committed to completing a workout, even if it was just stretching. Exercising did not only help me physically but also freed my mind from all the disturbing thoughts.

With the anxiety, I found forcing myself to fall asleep impossible because my brain would still be racing with thoughts. So I incorporated a routine of calming activities before bed. As a result, I fell asleep faster and had longer uninterrupted sleep. I felt more well-rested in the morning. My energy was fully recharged and I was ready to tackle any challenge of the day.

I also picked up a new hobby: I started snowboarding with my coworkers. Learning something new and seeing myself progress was exactly what my brain needed. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and boosted my motivation. Besides, bonding with my coworkers reduced lots of pre-shift anxiety and made it much easier to come to work.

A Commitment to Self-Care

Looking back, I am thankful that I chose to nourish my well-being. It has helped rewire my brain and restore the compassion that I thought I lost. Self-care will continue to be an important part of my routine.

In today’s life, it is easy to get caught up in daily tasks and forget about our own well-being. But it should not be that way. Let’s set aside some time in our busy days to nurture our bodies and minds for it is the best way to combat burnout and compassion fatigue.

By Van Tran, R.N.

I am a registered-nurse-turned writer. I want to help shape healthcare into a system where meaningful relationships are built among consumers, employees, and businesses that are based on mutual benefits and respect.

Equipped with not only ample clinical knowledge but also an understanding of consumers’, workers’, and management’s perspectives, I now aspire to spread the knowledge and bring healthcare businesses closer to their consumers. I decided to use the power of writing to achieve this ambition.

NAMI Seattle offers interactive trainings for your staff, community group, or leadership team on a variety of mental health topics including one on compassion fatigue.

Compassion Fatigue Training:

Learn to recognize signs of compassion fatigue and secondary trauma – both subtle and overt – and strategies to address them, as well as ongoing practices to care for your sense of self and connection to community in the face of emotionally challenging work.

Learn more about our Professional & Community Trainings