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Survey show that half of region's health workers are dealing with compassion fatigue

Hospitals are typically filled with sick and injured patients who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
U.S. Navy
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Hospitals are typically filled with sick and injured patients who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

A survey of Sarasota and Manatee health professionals and first responders reflects how the COVID pandemic has deeply affected people who help others and the need for more trauma-based services.

More than half of the health professionals and first responders in Sarasota and Manatee counties have experienced compassion fatigue, according to a community impact report released by a nonprofit that helps people deal with trauma.

Resilient Retreat collected the data to demonstrate the need for trauma-based services in Sarasota and Manatee for health care workers and first responders.

Lisa Intagliata, executive director of the Sarasota-based organization, says the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected people who help others.

"They will experience compassion fatigue because they can mirror what's happening in the situation and what is going on in the lives that they're saving and they often internalize that,” she said. “It’s actually a psychological phenomenon in your brain. We all have mirror neurons, and sometimes those mirror neurons, they're mirroring situations of stress and trauma."

According to the survey, 52 percent of the region's health professionals and first responders reported experiencing compassion fatigue, with 39 percent reporting moderate to severe secondary traumatic stress.

Mental health experts say that compassion fatigue is often mistaken for burnout. But it’s more acute than simply being tired. Health care workers and first responders are prone to mix the stress of traumatic events they witness on the job with the personal stress they are experiencing.

Intagliata says the physical, emotional, and psychological impact of helping others during the pandemic is significant.

"Seeing the patients in isolation, having to work through sometimes tablets and iPhones to correspond with family members about the loved one that was being hospitalized, it took a huge mental health toll."

The survey was produced to guide agencies on how to best help local health workers cope.

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