Lying Down in the Ever-Falling Snow
Canadian Health Professionals’ Experience of Compassion Fatigue
Publication Year: 2013
First used to describe the weariness the public felt toward media portrayals of societal crises, the term compassion fatigue has been taken up by health professionals to name—along with burnout, vicarious traumatization, compassion stress, and secondary traumatic stress—the condition of caregivers who become “too tired to care.” Compassion, long seen as the foundation of ethical caring, is increasingly understood as a threat to the well-being of those who offer it.
Through the lens of hermeneutic phenomenology, the authors present an insider’s perspective on compassion fatigue, its effects on the body, on the experience of time and space, and on personal and professional relationships. Accounts of health professionals, alongside examinations of poetry, images, movies, and literature, are used to explore the notions of compassion, hope, and hopelessness as they inform the meaning of caring work. The authors frame their exposé of compassion fatigue with the very Canadian metaphor of “lying down in the snow.” If suffering is imagined as ever-falling snow, then the need for training and resources for safe journeying in “winter country” becomes apparent. Recognizing the phenomenon of compassion fatigue reveals the role that health services education and the moral habitability of our healthcare environments play in supporting professionals’ ability to act compassionately and to endure.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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The Question of Compassion Fatigue: An Introduction
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These are the words of Laureen, a registered nurse who, like many other health professionals across Canada and around the world, has found her professional practice and her sense of self affected by something she and other practitioners have begun to call “compassion fatigue.” ...
What Is Compassion?
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Before exploring the experience that is called compassion fatigue, compassion itself must be looked at. Compassion manifests in contemporary health care amid ambiguity and paradox. Some argue that the very means by which institutional care is offered makes compassion impossible,1 ...
Differing Understandings of Compassion Fatigue
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Canadians grow up learning that the Inuit have a variety of words for what the rest of us simply call “snow.”1 Pierre Berton suggests this belief “has become part of our winter mythology”; and that if citizens of any northern climate were to look closely at their own language they would similarly find numerous terms for frozen precipitation.2 ...
A New Way of Understanding Compassion Fatigue
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Faced with limited knowledge of what compassion fatigue is, we wanted a way to study it that would allow us to understand it in its most fundamental form: as it is experienced in everyday life. Rather than theorize, conceptualize, or develop instruments to measure it, we were driven by a simple question: What is it like to have compassion fatigue? ...
The Cold Heart: The Bodily Experience of Compassion Fatigue
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As you read these words, you may be resting your back against a soft, comfortable chair or leaning against a hard bench at a bus stop. You can feel the weight of the book in your hand. Perhaps, from the corner of your eye, you notice the person next to you leaning over to discover your book’s title. ...
The Endless Winter: The Temporal Experience of Compassion Fatigue
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Our lives are made up of various times. We go through childhood, adolescence, middle and old age. We live through events that mark our time. There is the time when I was in school; then there is the time after I graduated but before I moved to Vancouver. In some ways, we seem to carry time bodily. ...
Lost and Alone in a Prairie Blizzard: The Experience of Space in Compassion Fatigue
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Our world is comprised of multiple, different spaces. These spaces exist around us, found in our physical environment through our engagement with it, formed through our thoughts and memories. Imagine the experience of receiving a postcard from a friend on vacation. Having picked up our mail, we enter our house. ...
An Icy Wall (Within and Between): Relations and Compassion Fatigue
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In the movie Cast Away, Chuck Noland is a man who survives a plane crash into the sea and is washed up on the shore of a desert island. As his years alone on the island unfold, the audience is struck by the dreadful strangeness of the solitary human being.1 ...
Bundling Up: Finding Hope in Cold Climes
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Hope is a concept we use in everyday life but upon which we rarely reflect. We hope that something positive will happen. We hope that we can be of use to someone in the world. We hope that an ill friend will get better and that our elderly mother remains healthy. ...
Survival in Winter Country
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In this study, we came to possess “fearful knowledge” that, like Nowlan’s, is “rarely uttered”: one can be overcome when compassionately responding to the pain and suffering of others. The metaphor of lying down in the ever-falling snow has been used throughout this book as a means of opening up the experience named “compassion fatigue.” ...
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When we began our study of health professionals’ compassion fatigue, not one of the team had ever experienced it. It was in the midst of our study that one of our team of researchers, Sharon Brintnell, an occupational therapist, began to experience an all-consuming fatigue. ...
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Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2013