Burnout and Compassion Fatigue: A Case Study

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By Patricia O’Malley, PhD, RN, CNS

The Effect of Meaningful Recognition on Nurses' Compassion Satisfaction and Compassion Fatigue

Currently nearly 2,400 healthcare facilities in 50 states and 15 countries use the DAISY Award® for Extraordinary Nurses for nurse recognition activities. Miami Valley Hospital (MVH) was one of 24 hospitals in the United States invited to serve as a national study site in 2015. The primary national investigators (PIs) were Lesly Kelly PhD, RN of Arizona State University College of Nursing and Cindy Lefton PhD RN, vice president of patient experience and research at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Patricia O’Malley PhD, RN, CNS nurse researcher served as the local PI.

A mixed-methods research design was used to analyze the effect of meaningful recognition on nurses' compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue. Nearly 250 ICU nurses at MVH were invited to participate. The web-based survey assessed nurse demographics, Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL), and Psychological Capital (PsyCap) indices. Additionally, one-on-one interviews with survey respondents who volunteered for the qualitative portion enriched the survey findings. While we wait for publication of this study, let’s take a peek at initial findings.  

Report Summary – 2016

Fourteen DAISY Hospitals and 10 non-DAISY hospitals participated. 1,136 or 42 percent of sample completed the survey. Nearly 100 ICU nurses across the United States completed the post survey confidential interview. Nearly 70 percent of the subjects had a BSN, and 45 percent were certified. Nearly a third of respondents reported working OFTEN beyond their shift. 

A not surprising finding: stress does contribute to burnout and compassion fatigue. However, The DAISY Award appears to reduce indices of burnout and helps create a favorable work environment. Findings also suggest that for nurses, being part of a team helps restore emotional energy. Additionally, all forms of recognition from patients and family members (verbal, written, or physical such a hug or wink) also improves job satisfaction and compassion indices. “When families feel safe to leave the patient, nurses perceive this outcome as recognition of their work.”

Results for the MVH cohort (40 percent participation) revealed high satisfaction with work (nearly 70 percent), and nearly 80 percent reported moderate to high enjoyment of work. Measures of compassion fatigue for MVH ICU nurses were not significantly different from the national results. MVH ICU nurses also had similar scores for hope, resilience and optimism. Over half of the respondents had attended a DAISY Award and nearly half had received a DAISY nomination.  

Thanks to all of the nurses who participated in this national study. You made a difference! You have added to the evidence that meaningful recognition makes a difference and what meaningful recognition is for ICU nurses. The manuscript describing this study has been submitted for publication and is currently under review. As soon as it is published, I will let you know.

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