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Ponderings: On Compassion

Updated on September 19, 2017
marcoujor profile image

With a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) from University of Pennsylvania in 1985, Maria uses a love for music in working with others.

To Suffer Together

Compassion literally means “to suffer together.”

** Why do nurses eat their young...? I once thought all nurses were compassionate. Instead of suffering together, some nurses cause suffering by their manner.

** Why do nurses become impatient with student nurses...? Were they not students at one time?

** Why do nurses appear to resent the clients they are charged to care for...?

Nurses, and others who work with people, can suffer from compassion fatigue, where stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, the pressures of personal and professional responsibilities, and vicarious trauma, are ever present.

Even television and other forms of social media are saturated with tragedy after tragedy, having the potential of dulling otherwise caring people to the suffering of others.

They don't care anymore.

And as for me I can sit here and bide my time

I got nothing to lose if I speak my mind.

I don't care anymore I don't care no more

— Phil Collins

Leave Your Troubles At The Gate

My first nursing supervisor barked orders at me as if she were a drill sergeant. I realized she never mentally left the Army, yet her voice softened with me over the years.

At the tender age of 22, I learned quickly to 'leave my troubles at the gate'.

My supervisor was all about the patients. She could care less what was going on in your personal world. You were expected to report to work and lateness was not acceptable.

Despite her hard-edged, autocratic style, I respected my supervisor's focus on excellent patient care. I have kept the patients as my priority throughout my career, no matter what role I have served.

And, 'I don't care ♥', this is why I have never experienced compassion fatigue.

On and on the rain will fall

Like tears from a star like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say

How fragile we are how fragile we are

— Sting

Sting: Fragile

Self Compassion

While never having experienced compassion fatigue, my life journey caused a period of overwhelming physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue at one point.

In June, 1999, at the age of 37, I faced my fragility and humanity at the hands of a drug-impaired, armed man in a hostage incident that played out over 46-hours.

I experienced the other side of the bed rails, hospitalized for four weeks, as I recovered ...

And 15-years later, I stress with my students to be ever mindful of their vulnerability. Self awareness and self care are paramount along life's journey.

I have never experienced compassion fatigue because I've known when I needed to take care of myself or allow others to take care of me.

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you

— Coldplay

Coldplay: Fix You

Self Care

Recognizing and addressing your own stress and need for self care is the most compassionate thing you can do, for yourself and those you love and work with.

My physical body carries me through the life that God has given me.

My mind helps me think about issues with clarity and meaning.

My soul keeps me aligned with my purpose in the Universe.

My self care plan includes:

  • humor and laughter
  • music, all kinds
  • walking, especially with my dog
  • writing, journaling, storytelling
  • mindfulness, relaxation
  • aromatherapy

In taking care of myself, I am better able to take care of others in a compassionate manner.

Gail Sobotkin, Happyboomernurse

Gail Sobotkin, Author
Gail Sobotkin, Author | Source

The Compassion I Found in

My friend, Gail Sobotkin aka Happyboomernurse, is supportive, compassionate and as nurturing as any nurse I have ever worked with ....

Oh wait, Gail is a nurse! And she also happens to be a passionate and talented author and photographer.

While we met online three years ago, I've been fortunate enough to have spent time with both Gail and her husband, Fred. As such, I can vouch that Gail is the real deal...!

I recently heard Gail share her story of "The Boy I Loved and Lost" at the 'A Grief Workshop and Labyrinth Walk' presented also by Mary Van House, MS; Midge DiNatale (Delaware Hospice). This powerful and inspirational story can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength.

I'm not sure if Gail recognized the compassion fatigue in the nurses that cared for her Helmut in his final days when she was a young girl of eighteen.

But I am quite sure that the nurse Gail became demonstrated compassion, understanding and sensitivity for every client and family member she encountered.

I have included some links below that highlight Gail's compassion. She has many others to check out as well...

And now I'd like to pass the baton of the Project Good Words to you, Gail, with the word of compassion.

© Maria Jordan (November, 2014)


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    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I know you understand all too well, Car51 - thanks for the visit.

    • Car51 profile image


      6 years ago

      Compassion -- yes, to suffer with. Especially hard when you are suffering with someone you know and love.

    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Jo,

      Always so wonderful to see you! I know you will love Gail's article as I did.

      Sorry for your experience with health care and I know Gail and I would be happy to take care of you and all of our hub friends.

      Thanks for the votes and and hugs to you, Maria

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh Maria!

      This is just so beautiful! I am so grateful and thankful for your contribution with each word! :-) I will be sure to head over to the sweet angel Happyboomernurse.

      I wish if I ever need taken care two ladies would be available and on duty at the time. I have unfortunately encountered many compassion fatigued nurses to last me a lifetime!

      This is why I steer far away from any medical care for the last 5 years!

      My philosophy is..when I get sick ( as in my recent head cold) if I pray for my God (daddy) to take it away and heal me. This is good enough.

      If not..then my number is up and I gladly go home to be with my father in heaven. Either way..for me it is a "win-win". :-)

      Shared, Up +++ and thank you so much! Hugs, Love and Blessings!

    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Thanks, dear Peg...PA is having the same kind of day...I am COMMITTED to ignoring it personally... Love you and hugs, mar

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Dear Mar,

      I had to stop back in for a fix of Coldplay. What a great song for a cold rainy day staying in, reading and catching up on things. Lovely to chat with you today. Love.

    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Hi my dear friends,

      eddy, So lovely to see you and hope all is well in your corner of the world.

      Shyron, You are awe-inspiring!! I am grateful that your husband encountered compassion in his nursing care and so sorry about your cousin. Thanks for your votes and for being you!

      Paula, I love that your dear sister was a nurse and you share a nurse's heart - that is for dang sure. Sending you love and peace too!

      Shyron, Thanks for coming back and gracing this hub with your beautiful song selection-- you have a beautiful ear as well as a beautiful heart!

      Alicia, So good to see you and thanks for your insights.

      Have a great day and hugs to all, Maria

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a beautiful hub, Maria. Compassion is a wonderful quality in nurses and in everyone else. You've described its importance in a very lovely way.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      I could not rest until I found the song that played inside my head, from your inspirational words I read..... these words popped into my head, "You're my soul and high inspiration"

      I went to search my albums from 1960s, I knew it was there and I had to find it. There it was the title of the album for 1966 "You've Loving Feeling" were the words "You're my soul and high inspiration"

      It would be perfect if you add it to this hub.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 years ago from Carson City

      Maria......Nurses ROCK! My sister was a fabulous nurse and "some of my BEST friends" are nurses. It definitely requires a special personality and character to handle this job as it is meant to be. You & Gail in particular are the perfect example........and your HUB is PERFECT as well, my sweet Maria! Love you.......Peace, Paula

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Maria, this is awe-inspiring, you have no idea.

      I don't think my hubby met on single nurse who had compassion fatigue in his month long stay in the hospital.

      My cousin met many when she was diagnosed with Cushings disease.

      Voting it up across the board except for funny and sharing.


    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      it seems to have been so long since I've stopped by but I am so glad I did today Maria. This is wonderful and I vote up plus share.


    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Good morning, dear Theresa,

      I loved waking up this morning to your beautiful and insightful comments.

      I'm starting a new clinical rotation today with (7) fresh and lovely new nursing students - another opportunity to influence the future of nursing and I get so excited about that!

      I know you will love Gail's article as I did and cannot wait for you to receive your copy of her amazing book as well.

      Love you and have a peaceful day, Maria

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Maria,

      I sure needed to read this wonderful insight you have shared here on taking care of ourselves this night. Your wisdom in taking care of oneself so that we are able to have compassion for others is wise beyond your years and so beautiful. Each time I read something you write, the more I love you and your true heart.

      "To suffer together" ... wow, how powerful! Your music choices are perfect and the best of the best for this hub here. I learned something new about compassion fatigue, and it makes so much sense.

      Gail's compassion shines here and through her beautiful spirit. I look forward to reading Gail's hub on compassion.

      The world becomes a little bit nicer when we are able to have compassion for others. For you to have experienced such a trauma in your young life and to learn how to take care of yourself and remain the compassionate person you are, is an astounding testimony.

      Love and Hugs to you and Gail

      Up ++++ sharing everywhere

    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Sha Sha, I am sending you a soft pillow, a back rub and a big hug...I know the nurses in FL are taking good care of my special Sista and they are no doubt crazy about I am...!!

      Ruby, As far as nurses go, you are an A++ to me...and I thank you for your beautiful comment here this evening. I know you will get such a healing benefit when you walk the labyrinth in your area.

      Peg, Thanks for your insights and experiences. I'm hoping you continue to encounter the compassionate healthcare workers who grace the and your family deserve the very best we have to give.

      Martie, I want to share my self care plan with YOU most of all (LOL) and be sure you are feeling tip are an amazing juggler but even the best of us need to rest. Hoping you know how special your comments are to me always...

      Mike, I am speed dialing Gordon Sumner now (Sting 'loves' when I call him by his real name...) to give him your message. So happy you stopped by and hoping you are getting some rest today after a busy weekend.

      Hoping you all have a chance to check out Gail's wonderful hub, which I have linked at the end of this one...have a peaceful night. Love, Maria

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello mar. Your spotlight on 'Compassion' is so welcome to read. Gail is such a respected member of our community. You have introduced me to three new songs in this hub, so that is cool. The project Good Words certainly has found another champion in you.

      In recent years I have been in the care of countless nurses and only felt their compassion. I am thankful that I did not encounter compassion fatigue.

      You have done a fabulous presentation.

      Sting did a nice job with that song as well. tell him I said so.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Dear Mar, your self care plan should be included in the nursing curriculum. Working with the sick and dying everyday of one's life must be exhausting, so somehow I can understand why nurses become blasé. I take my hat off for you; your compassion is still clearly sensible, and that in spite of a very bad experience.

      This is a most encouraging hub. Gail is evidently the One to run with the compassion baton.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      You've sure hit the nail on the head with this, Maria. Often in the past I wondered why a particular nurse chose a profession of caring for others since they obviously do not. Now you've explained it so that I understand the tragic effect the daily dealing with trauma has on these nurses, doctors and medical people.

      I've also met some of the most loving, sensitive and hard working people in the medical profession as well, people who take on life's challenges and continue to dispense good cheer and kindness every single day. Thank goodness for people like that and for people like you. Love you, Peg.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      The angels surely smiled the day you decided to be a nurse. I learn so much from your compassion and giving heart. I read Gail's piece on the death of her young friend and walking the labyrinth. I want to walk the labyrinth that's close to me and I will. I have worked with some of the most loving nurses and a few who should have chosen another field but good ones outweighed the bad. I love the ' I don't care theme ' Way to go! My favorite quote, " Don't look back you're not going that was. " So true..

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm learning first hand how compassionate nurses are. They're amazing people who have answered a noble calling.

      I hold you, Gail, and Kimmie in such high regard. You are all true angels on Earth!

    • marcoujor profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Jordan 

      6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Good afternoon, dear friends,

      Mary, Slow and steady is my sharing style. Thanks ever so much for being a faithful and beautiful friend in this series, which has become so meaningful to me.

      Randi, I'm so happy you have mostly had compassionate and caring nurses in your life experience and ever so glad you love my musical choices too! Always love when you stop by!

      Vicki, You're in luck as Gail has just published the most beautiful article for you to check out as time permits. Hope you are having a great day and thanks for your supportive friendship.

      Gail, You are breathtaking- from this awesome comment to the article I have just finished reading / sharing far and wide, linking above in this hub as well. I know I made the correct choice in passing the baton of COMPASSION to you, my dear girlfriend.

      Linda, YOU are on a pedestal for the way you love and care for the Captain. You are beautiful inside and out...and I am a better person for having you in my world.

      Gail, Thanks for coming back and sharing these words to our friends that brings tears to my eyes.

      Bill, So happy to see you and very happy you saw Gail's work as well, dear friend.

      Wishing each of you a beautiful and peaceful evening as I head out to meet with my wonderful nurses. Hugs and love, Maria

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Between your article and Gail's, I have had a wonderful reading experience today. I feel better about humanity when I read your word, Maria. Thank you!



    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Dear Tillsontitan, Vicki and Sunshine,

      Thanks so much for your kind words and ongoing support. I continue to learn new things all the time from our amazing, compassionate Maria and enjoy working with her on writing projects.

      Most importantly, Maria gives me hope that nurses of the future will continue to embody the kind of excellent nursing knowledge and skills that she so generously shares with her students.

      Hugs & Love to All of You,


    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I hold nurses in the highest regard, they are on a pedestal. They are angels on earth. I have met so many compassionate nurses these past few years while caring for Dave. I have also met so many caregivers who have experienced and continue to experience compassion fatigue, myself included. I actually didn't know that existed until this article Oh my. Thank you MM for my lesson of the day. XO

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      My Dear Maria,

      Where do I begin? Once again you have touched me to my core, and also taught me a new outlook on compassion fatigue, especially as it relates to nursing. I used to recognize it as "burn-out" but I think the term compassion fatigue is much more helpful because it puts the spotlight on the true issue--- which is forgetting to have compassion for ourselves and taking steps to create our own self-care plans so we can continually renew our well of compassion.

      Your self-care plan is excellent and has served you well, plus you are teaching it to a future generation of nurses, and any current nurses who may see this and take steps to incorporate it in their life and career.

      Thank you for sharing your horrific hostage experience which taught you first hand, what it feels like to be the patient in a hospital bed. You could have left nursing forever after that ordeal, and yet you've gone on to be a tremendous role model of nursing excellence and I'm so proud, and blessed, to have you as my friend/ writing mentor/ and supporter of my own writing efforts.

      In answer to you're wondering if I realized the nurses who took care of Helmut during his last 2 days of life had compassion fatigue, I would have to say that I didn't make that connection until this very moment, but it was truly powerful to make it because it helps me see their actions in a more compassionate light.

      Am sharing this and voting it up across the board except for funny.

      Sending Blessings, Love & Hugs,

      Gail, aka Happyboomernurse

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Dear Maria,

      I always enjoy listening to your musical choices as I read your words! That is such a treat as you are such a maestro at matching the best with the best!

      I loved this particularly, as we both enjoy Phil so much, and your choices are extra great today.

      I'm looking forward to Gail's compassion article, lucky us! She and you are a very compassionate pair.

      This was a lovely read, and you are truly Miss Compassion in my mind and heart.

      Big hugs and love Vicki

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      6 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Compassionate is most definitely one of the best descriptions I could use for you, Maria! Among many other beautiful adjectives! I have had quite a bit of experiences with nurses, having had so many hospitalizations through my life. Although some have clearly suffered from compassion fatigue, most have been amazingly compassionate. It helps when they gave teachers like you! Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts!

      Oh, and how could I forget...Phil, Sting AND Coldplay all in one hub! Nice!

      Up across the board except funny. Xo

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Each of these hubs you write tell us a little bit more about the amazing nurse and woman you are. Concern for the suffering of others can sometimes wear thin but you have learned how to insure that never happens. You are, as always, a light along our way.

      HBN (I use her initials) is of course a nurse in your image and likeness! I know, she is her own special lady and her writings reflect that.

      God bless you both.

      Voted all but funny!


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