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, Copyrigth Page
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The Question of Compassion Fatigue: An Introduction
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We see some pretty horrific wounds. Often times, I feel numb. There is so little you can do, other than clean and cover the wounds for the patient. It is difficult because you want to help and yet there is so little that you can do for them.... Once, some maggots crawled out of a man’s wound ... you never lose that image.... In my work, ...
What Is Compassion?
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Before exploring the experience that is called compassion fatigue, com-passion 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 while others go as far as to say that the dawn of institutionalized care in Roman ...
Differing Understandings of Compassion Fatigue
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Snow is an inadequate word to describe the infinite variety of the ice 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 ...
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, concep-tualize, or develop instruments to measure it, we were driven by a simple question: What is it like to have compassion fatigue? Understanding the ...
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. Your shoulder moves up to block his view: he is getting a little too ...
The Endless Winter: The Temporal Experience of Compassion Fatigue
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Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the Our lives are made up of various times. We go through childhood, ado-lescence, 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 gradu-...
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 experi-ence of receiving a postcard from a friend on vacation. Having picked up our mail, we enter our house. Flipping through the flyers and bills, our ...
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 dread-ful strangeness of the solitary human being.1 We are, as Aristotle claimed, political—social—animals.2 We need relationships and to be connected, ...
Bundling Up: Finding Hope in Cold Climes
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What is this thing called hope? We ridicule those with too much of it and we hospitalize those with too little. It is dependent on so many things, yet indisputably necessary to most.... Words can destroy it. Science has neglected it. A day without it is horrible. A day with it guarantees little. The task of the physician, nurse, educator, clergy, ...
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.” We were inspired by a father’s ...
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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 ther-apist, began to experience an all-consuming fatigue. Her mother was in renal failure and Sharon, an only child, was trying to sustain her mother’s ...
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Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 2013