Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Nursing

First Advisor

Teresa J. Kelechi

Second Advisor

Martina Mueller

Third Advisor

Doris Davenport


Purpose: This dissertation addresses compassion fatigue and the ambiguous use of the closely related synonyms of burnout, secondary traumatic stress disorder, and vicarious traumatization in acute care nurses. The aim of this dissertation was to define the concept of compassion fatigue within nursing practice, to identify and examine preventive and intervention strategies and to determine the prevalence of compassion fatigue in acute care nurses. Design: This manuscript includes a concept analysis based on the evolutionary method to identify attributes, antecedents and consequences of compassion fatigue, an integrative review examining strategies to reduce compassion fatigue, and a cross sectional, quantitative study to define and measure key components to establish contributing factors of compassion fatigue based on completion of the Professional Quality of Life Scale, also known as ProQol. Conclusions: These findings provide a greater understanding of how compassion fatigue impacts the nursing professional; and its deleterious effects lead to negative outcomes on quality of patient care and safety. Relevance: This study arose directly from my personal interest as a masters’ prepared registered nurse working in acute care and observing the deleterious effects that occurred from compassion fatigue if unrecognized and untreated. Therefore, this dissertation explored ambiguous terms, preventive and intervention strategies and the impact on acute care nurses in a rural setting. There is a need to create an instrument specifically designed to measure compassion fatigue in nurses that is sensitive to detect the day to day nuances in their practice that lead to compassion fatigue, define parameters for the use of synonyms based on stages of symptoms leading to compassion fatigue, and develop interventions to prevent and ameliorate the negative consequences on their health and patient care.


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