Compassion fatigue and substance use among nurses – 2018

This study aimed to detect if there were differences in compassion fatigue (CF) among nurses based on substance use and demographic variables of gender, marital status, type of health institution and income.

Compassion fatigue is considered an outcome of poorly handled stressful situations in which nurses may respond with self-harming behaviours like substance use. Evidence in this area is critically lacking.

This study used a descriptive design to survey differences in CF of 282 nurses. The participants completed a demographic survey and indicated whether they consume any of the following substances on a frequent basis: cigarettes, sleeping pills, power drinks, anti-depressant drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, coffee, analgesics, amphetamines and alcohol. Compassion Fatigue scores were surveyed using CF self-test 66 items developed by Stamm and Figely (Compassion satisfaction and fatigue test., 1996).

There were significant differences in CF scores in favour of nurses who used cigarettes, sleeping pills, power drinks, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. While no significant differences in CF were found between nurses who used coffee, analgesics, amphetamines and alcohol, significant differences in nurses’ CF were found in relation to type of institution, gender and marital status. But nurses’ income did not bring differences to CF scores.

Nurses who might be lacking resilience cope negatively with CF using maladaptive negative behaviours such as substance use.

Implications for nursing management
Nursing management should be aware of the substance use drive among nurses and build organizational solutions to overcome compassion fatigue and potential substance use problems.

Reem Jarrad, Sawsan Hammad, Tagreed Shawashi and Naser Mahmoud
Annals of General Psychiatry, 2018 17:13