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When you're feeling compassion fatigue

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Caregivers and nurses may experience emotional weariness from being closely involved with people's suffering -- sometimes called Compassion Fatigue -- or from feelings of inadequacy and self-blame, a condition called stress of conscience. You can check out the abstract of a recent study, "Burnout and 'stress of conscience' among healthcare personnel," published online January 2013 in the Journal of Womens Health that shows how being attentive to our own and others' feelings of troubled conscience is important in preventing burnout in health care.

And staff need opportunities to reflect on their troubled conscience, the abstract explains. Further research is needed into how a troubled conscience can be eased, particularly focusing on the working environment. You also may wish to see the abstract of another study, "Burnout among women: associations with demographic/socio-economic, work, life-style and health factors. [Archives of Womens Mental Health. 2007].

Conflicts between personal values and employer practices on ethical issues such as euthanasia and stem cell research can lead to moral fatigue, but how are middle-aged women in general affected by burnout?

Emotional exhaustion and physical and cognitive fatigue are signs of burnout, often caused by prolonged exposure to stress. Burnout can cause negative health effects including poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular and immune disorders. The findings of a 9-year study of burnout in middle-aged working women are reported in an article in Journal of Women's Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Women's Health website.

In the article "Development of burnout in middle-aged working women: a longitudinal study," Evolahti A et al. J Womens Health (Larchmt). (2013)," authors Annika Evolahti, PhD, Daniel Hultell, PhD, and Aila Collins, PhD, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, found that in contrast to previous research findings that showed burnout to be stable over time, they were able to cluster the women in the study into groups characterized by different developmental patterns of burnout. You also may wish to see the abstract of another study, "Contingent self-esteem, stressors and burnout in working women and men."[Work. 2012].

Some middle-aged women had high levels of burnout followed by recovery, whereas others had increasing, decreasing, or stable levels over a 9-year period. The authors explored how these patterns related to changes in work-related and other types of stress in the women's lives and individual personality factors. You also may wish to see the abstract of another study, "Burnout, working conditions and gender--results from the northern Sweden MONICA Study." [BMC Public Health. 2010].

"This important study expands our understanding of burnout in working women, in terms of both patterns of development and relation to various stressors and individual factors," says Susan G. Kornstein, MD, according to the January 17, 2013 news release, "How are middle-aged women affected by burnout?" Kornstein is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women's Health, Richmond, VA, and President of the Academy of Women's Health.

ou also may wish to see the abstract of another study, "Early-career burnout among new graduate nurses: a prospective observational study of intra-individual change trajectories." [Int J Nurs Stud. 2011.] Or see, "Understanding long-term sick leave in female white-collar workers with burnout and stress-related diagnoses: a qualitative study." [BMC Public Health. 2010.

Journal of Women's Health, published monthly, is a core multidisciplinary journal dedicated to the diseases and conditions that hold greater risk for or are more prevalent among women, as well as diseases that present differently in women. The Journal covers the latest advances and clinical applications of new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic protocols for the prevention and management of women's healthcare issues. You also may wish to see the website, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News. Tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Journal of Women's Health website. Journal of Women's Health is the Official Journal of the Academy of Women's Health and the Society for Women's Health Research.

About the Academy

Academy of Women's Health ( is an interdisciplinary, international association of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who work across the broad field of women's health, providing its members with up-to-date advances and options in clinical care that will enable the best outcomes for their women patients. The Academy's focus includes the dissemination of translational research and evidence-based practices for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of women across the lifespan.


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