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Stress-Management Tips for Healthcare Workers

Stress-Management Tips for Healthcare Workers

Jennifer LeClaire / Monster Contributing Writer

Fight Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue — the stress that comes from caring too much — can strike any healthcare worker. Because they care so deeply about their patients, healthcare professionals who listen to stories of fear, pain and suffering can find themselves empathetically experiencing similar emotions.

Karl LaRowe, a Vancouver, Washington-based licensed clinical social worker, learned about compassion fatigue firsthand. “I was drawn to working in a very busy, inner-city emergency room in Portland, Oregon, with many people who were experiencing traumatic stress, similar to my own past personal history,” he says. “This reexposure continually set off personal trauma issues, resulting in severe and persistent depression.”

More Stress Management Tips

LaRowe’s doctor prescribed Prozac for his symptoms. When the drug therapy failed, LaRowe turned to Qigong breathing exercises to relieve his stress. Now he teaches this ancient Chinese healing technique through his public-speaking engagements.

Other strategies for dealing with compassion fatigue include increasing social support, banishing feelings of self-blame and guilt, and participating in community or charitable events.

Get to the Root of the Issue

Before joining the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pharmacist Aliya Smith worked for a major chain drugstore. “The corporation seemed most interested in the number of prescriptions filled and not the actual well-being of the customers and employees,” she says.

Smith found the stress of meeting deadlines and quotas in retail so great that she shifted her workplace environment, a move that psychologists term getting to the root of the problem.

“In the case of someone who is in a job that is a mismatch with their personality and preferences, switching to another role and/or organization is likely to be a much better stress-reduction technique than any other,” says Ben Dattner, PhD, principal of Dattner Consulting, an organizational consulting and research firm in New York City. “However, confronting the ‘real’ cause of stress can itself be stressful, because it involves recognizing that one must make real changes rather than just applying Band-Aids to the problem.”

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