Recent MBM Grad Addresses Compassion Fatigue: Practical Applications for Nursing Professionals. Introducing Betsy Murphy
Nurses are on the front line of care for the ill, wounded, and traumatized individuals and are called upon to deliver compassionate care to their clients. Empathy and compassion are essential qualities for successful healing environments, vital for both the providers and receivers of health-promoting interactions.
Betsy Murphy is a certified holistic nurse who is interested in exploring mind body methods to help preserve compassion in nurses. Her professional and personal practice of mindfulness meditation and yoga, along with Saybrook’s training in mind-body skills, guided her in the development of a 16-hour experiential education program to alleviate compassion fatigue in nursing professionals. This education program comprised her masters’ project, and she graduated with an MS in Mind-Body Medicine in August 2012.
The perspective of Murphy’s educational program is unique. Murphy began by theorizing that there is a loss of the ability to respond to trauma and suffering with care and compassion, when compassion fatigue is experienced. Compassion is a response to feelings of empathy. Empathy arises from mirror neurons in the brain that mimic the feelings of another when in their presence. The response to feelings of empathy that arises from exposure to another suffering person is often compassion. When a nurse is experiencing the call for compassion and cannot provide it, this leads to compassion stress and discomfort with the empathic response. The distress nurses feel can lead to a variety of symptoms -- physical, emotional, and mental. Often busy nurses ‘numb out’ and are unable to respond with care to alleviate the other’s suffering.
Murphy developed an experiential curriculum that concentrates on the use of self-care tools such as mindfulness meditation, movement, loving kindness meditation, relaxation training, and reflective journaling. It is Murphy’s hope that the restoring of these “qualities of heart” through participation in the specific mind-body practices will alleviate compassion fatigue. The format involves a weekend retreat in which the participants are away from the stresses of their professional and personal life and engage in the deep work of self- healing through experiential exercises and a better understanding of the condition of compassion fatigue.