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Your Healthy Family: How UCHealth helps you, by helping their employees with compassion fatigue

Compassion fatigue it's a subject UCHealth Memorial is focused on to make sure their patient care is top notch. Compassion fatigue it's a subject UCHealth Memorial is focused on to make sure their patient care is top notch.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Compassion fatigue it's a subject UCHealth Memorial is focused on to make sure their patient care is top notch.  They offer a class that teach their employees how to deal with the unique stresses that come from working in health care.

The class is taught by Rev. Nathan Mesnikoff, the Director of Spiritual Care at UCHealth Memorial who explains, “To have compassion fatigue you need two elements.  You need the burnout but then you also need what's called vicarious trauma exposure, to the suffering of others.  When you combine those two things, feeling overwhelmed feeling exhausted and constantly seeing the suffering, that's really when it starts to take a toll.”

The compassion fatigue class isn't just for those on the front lines of care like doctors and nurses says Mesnikoff, “That stress and that suffering kind of splashes out on everybody who touches that patient, directly or indirectly and we need to acknowledge that.  We also have people who work in patient placement and registration, we have people who work behind the scenes as kind of medical records employees, and what we're finding is that while the nurses and doctors often get a lot of spotlight for the stress, and certainly their work is stressful, really anyone who works in health care is subject to this.”

The focus of the classes teaches employees to recognize, and put a focus on taking care of themselves when they are not at work says Mesnikoff, ”All the foundational elements of self care, of exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well, all of those things contribute to this.  Then there are the extra things of reaching out for connection, and of acknowledging the stress of the work, and of acknowledging that the suffering of others has an impact on us.”

Loura Jean Hawley has been an registered nurse for 30 years.  She says the class helped her to focus on recharging when she's not at work.  “I said to myself it is ok to sit and color or go for a walk, and I have always done those sort of things but they were on the back burner, so I moved them to the front burner after taking this class.”

Mesnikoff says the benefits of the class for the go far beyond the mental health of hospital employees, “There's the human cost, but there's also a financial cost.  The cost to replace a nurse ranges from around $25,000 to $65,000, and to replace a physician ranges from $250,000 to $1,000,000.  Replacing experienced people is very expensive.”

While the class improves the hospital’s bottom line and patient care, it does so Mesnikoff says through the employees, “The feedback I get from the people I work with is that these techniques these classes make a difference and help them cope, and help them be better care providers.  Really at the end of the day that's what it’s all about is making sure we're taking good care of our patients, and if you don't take care of yourself it's hard then to turn around provide quality healthcare to others.”

Mesinkoff points out that everyone can experience burn out in any job but not every job requires showing compassion to the customer like in health care which is why offering this class a priority for UCHealth.

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