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Ponderings: On Compassion

Updated on September 19, 2017
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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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