Healthcare workers helping each other battle ‘compassion fatigue’ as pandemic wages on


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — If the endless headlines and staggering statistics that come with the coronavirus pandemic are leaving you feeling a bit drained, you’re far from alone.

“This pandemic has shaken us up in so many different ways. I can’t think of a single person that’s gone untouched by it,” said Dr. Jennifer Bickel, a neurologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Bickel has been tasked with helping her colleagues navigate the often overwhelming emotional toll of battling the virus on a daily basis.

“When we are in this fatigued, stressed, fear-based state of mind, we will automatically interpret actions in a negative light more than a positive light,” Bickel said.

It’s why Children’s Mercy has made virtual meditation, social workers and even hospital chaplains available to staff members.

“That’s the biggest thing we hear; people are tired,” Bickel said.

Feeling exhausted, both physically and psychologically, is something Stephanie Meyer can relate to. Meyer is a nurse practitioner who spent the entire month of April working at a hospital in New York City.

“The scare that I felt, even before stepping into a hospital, was not something I would like to feel again,” Meyer told NewsNation affiliate WDAF.

Her feelings of anxiety were quickly replaced with physical fatigue.

“It was difficult working every night. It came out to be 13-hour shifts every night,” Meyer said.

Meyer is recently recovered from her own bout with COVID-19, and she’s also rejoicing in another antidote to feelings of compassion fatigue: soy candles.

“So when I got back from New York, I opened my own soy candle business,” Meyer said. “It was a hobby, so I needed something, to be honest, a little bit outside of the medical field, to level myself out.”

Meyer said her candle business has been exceptional therapy for the often grueling demands of medical work.

“I used to workout all the time, but now I just do candles,” she laughed.

It’s precisely the kind of coping strategy that Bickel believes is essential for health workers and the rest of us.

Here’s another technique Bickel recommends:

“Every night at the same time, write down three good things that happened that day,” Bickel said. “And then spend some time reflecting about those three good things and, better yet, maybe sharing them with other people.”

Another healthy way to face the future with a sense of vigor, Bickel advises, is to reflect on the difficult terrain we’ve already traveled.

“People have built resiliency in ways that they never imagined that they could,” Bickel said. “If you think back to eight months ago, do you think that you could’ve tolerated these last eight months? But we did, right? We did.”

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