Compassion Fatigue: Qualitative Research Critique and Ethical Consideration


Research performed by Drury, Craige, Francis, Aoun and Hegney (2013) is a qualitative study designed to determine if compassion fatigue (CF) is related to burnout in nurses and if stress in general results in poorer patient outcomes. It is research similar to many others, for example, Kieft, de Brouwer, Francke and Delnoij (2014) and Laschinger (2014) that determined various factors affecting stress management in nursing and causing increased burnout. However, Drury et al. (2013) approach factors contributing to stress and burnout more directly at the same time establishing a connection between those and poor patient outcomes. The first phase of this study was carried out using quantitative methods to provide a framework in which the second phase would operate. Although the authors focus more on the ability to cope with stressful environments developed in nurses, they also stress the point that CF directly results in “an inability to work effectively” (Drury et al., 2013, p. 520). The purpose of this paper is to analyze the components of the research.

Background of Study

The background of this study is provided by the fact that compassion fatigue on its own is a concept that is not covered adequately. However, it has been confirmed to have a significant influence on the quality of care and, therefore, patient outcomes. It may be theorized that studies on this concept will also have a direct impact on stress management. If this statement proves to be true, stress management techniques and procedures will also be shown to improve patient outcomes.

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The significance of this study is contained in the fact that understanding the causes and effects of CF may also significantly improve stress management practice. Nurses will be given a tool to help to fight off burnout. Consequently, decreasing amounts of stress will result in nurses performing their duties better which will improve patient outcomes. This study has a lot of potential value for both health care workers and their patients.

As already mentioned, this article is a part of the three-phase study; the first study focuses on implementing quantitative methods of understanding the issue, while the second is conducted using the qualitative method (interviews). The aim of these studies is to determine factors compiling compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue while also describing techniques nurses use to promote compassion satisfaction outside of the working environment.

Research questions were related to establishing central themes that nurses connect with compassion fatigue and deriving “suggestions to build psychological wellness in nurses” (Drury et al., 2013, p. 519). Since the purpose was to report findings related to this problem, it was closely related to the problem, and so were the research questions.

Method of Study

Taking research questions into account, the qualitative method of interviewing was appropriate to answer them. The study in general (each of the three phases combined) was designed in the framework of “a three-phase mixed-method study underpinned by pragmatism” (Drury et al., 2013, p. 520).

The sources used in this publication are of varying relevance. The most recent studies utilized by the authors were published in the same year as the publication took place (2013), and the least recent paper was published in 2002. Researches published outside of the five-year limit are qualitative, while some of the most recent publications are quantitative. The authors made sure that there is enough evidence supporting each phase of their research both quantitatively and qualitatively. This way, the authors were able to take into account many aspects of stress management as well as mechanisms influencing the formation of stress as well as resilience to negate it.

The authors stated that the available studies lack an alternative perspective meaning that most of them were conducted in North America while almost entirely ignoring similar health care systems present in other regions (such as Australia). The literature review provided enough information to derive three main logical arguments. First, people experiencing CF may respond positively to interventions. Second, nurses with decreasing psychological well-being are likely to retire. Third, mechanisms of nurses becoming resilient to stress and maintaining this state are not understood enough. The authors did not state if a framework was developed from the study findings.

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Results of Study

The primary results of this study were the main themes connected to compassion satisfaction and fatigue determined after the findings were analyzed. Also, certain suggestions to building psychological wellness were derived.

As already mentioned, the nursing practice may substantially benefit from the understanding of stress-inducing factors as well as from an understanding of the mechanisms that result in nurses’ adopting a resilience to stress and compassion fatigue. The findings presented in the paper are most likely to impact nursing practice. There are no particular limitations to implementing these into nursing administration or education. Managerial personnel is likely to take the results presented in this study into consideration to improve the working environment and promote better patient outcomes.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical approval was provided for each phase of the study. The provider of this authorization was the Human Research Ethics Committee of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the University of Western Australia. Naturally, the interviews were conducted only after the participants agreed to be recorded via audiotape during individual interviews and the ones carried out in focus groups. Since the study did not relate to any kind of treatment, the only ethical consideration was protecting the privacy of each participant.

Conclusion

The thesis statement provided in this research is important because of various reasons. The most important of these is that understanding stress-related mechanisms will result in improvements to the working environment and stress management techniques. These improvements, in turn, will promote better patient outcomes by increasing the overall medical care quality.

This study is unique and significant because it provides coverage of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, depression, anxiety, and stress in general and implements a study conducted outside of North America where similar studies were already performed on multiple occasions. Additionally, there is a potential to provide a lasting impact on health care science and practice.

Nursing practice specialists may take this publication into account as a base on which they will create a set of measures and stress management procedures aimed at reducing stress while promoting compassion satisfaction. Additionally, it may be possible to adopt a new way of selecting potential employees while interviewing them. This means that the recruited person will be chosen based – among other factors – on their ability to become resilient to stress. Therefore, patient outcomes may also be improved.

Learned knowledge includes concepts of compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and themes related to them. Additionally, mechanisms for reducing stress during performing nursing responsibilities and becoming resilient to it are now understood substantially better.

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References

Drury, V., Craige, M., Francis, K., Aoun, S., & Hegney, D. G. (2013). Compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, anxiety, depression and stress in registered nurses in Australia: Phase 2 results. Journal of Nursing Management, 22(4), 519-531.

Kieft, R., de Brouwer, B., Francke, A. L., Delnoij, D. (2014). How nurses and their work environment affect patient experiences of the quality of care: A qualitative study. BMC Health Services Research, 14(249), 1-10.

Laschinger, H. K. S. (2014). Impact of workplace mistreatment on patient safety risk and nurse-assessed patient outcomes. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 44(5), 284-290.

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