Supportive Care

Oncology Nurse as Wounded Healer: Developing a Compassion Identity

Vincent M. Corso

holistic care, self care, communication
CJON 2012, 16(5), 448-450. DOI: 10.1188/12.CJON.448-450

Oncology nurses caring for patients with complex medical, psychosocial, and spiritual issues—including patients at end of life—rely on current medical interventions to offer comfort to their patients. Equally important, but less acknowledged, is nurses' reliance on the internal processes of reflection and self-care. That internal focus is vital to the longevity of the nurse in a rewarding, but often depleting, arena. Compassion fatigue and burnout among oncology nurses are great risks to professional development and personal growth. Repeated exposure to physical and psychosocial pain and suffering can cause symptoms that resemble those of post-traumatic stress disorder. Awareness of one's own fragility and the need to understand the connections between body, mind, and spirit can assist the clinician in developing a compassion identity that nurses and other clinicians can use to insulate themselves from the stressors of their difficult and rewarding environment.

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