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An Exploration of Fatigue Amongst Caregivers
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Working conditions of caregivers is characterised by long hours, heavy work demands and low pay. While there has been a great deal written on fatigue among nurses and doctors as a result working long and hard, little is known about other forms of fatigue, including compassion fatigue, among caregivers. A review of literature identifies that fatigue is a complex phenomenon and that it is often misdiagnosed as burnout. Compassion fatigue results from the long turn exposure to suffering of others. Although compassion fatigue is researched amongst different occupations such as nurses, police officers, veterinarians and psychologists, there is minimal research in the field of caregiving. This study, therefore, will focus on a group of caregivers and look beyond the orthodox reasons for fatigue (namely the long hours and heavy workloads), and explore other contributing factors, such as compassion fatigue. This study was exploratory and drew on descriptive interview data from caregivers in different workplaces. The data was collected using five face-to-face semi structured interviews. The data was then analysed using thematic analysis to identify key themes and to capture the participant’s experiences. The findings suggest that not only do caregivers experience fatigue and compassion fatigue but they are unaware that they are experiencing fatigue; rather they see it as being “tired”. This could be because of a lack of knowledge around fatigue. Key themes identified were caregiving is female dominated, caregivers believed they cared too much but that was part of the job. Caregivers had stable employment because most caregivers had been in their roles for extended periods of time between 5-15 years. Caregivers chose the occupation because they liked caring for people and saw themselves as caring people; they also had family members who were in need of care. Although all caregivers reported an increased workload, they found it manageable even though it had been increasing over the years. Caregivers experienced both fatigue and compassion fatigue and felt that they had a lack of managerial support, with no coping mechanisms to deal with how they were feeling. Caregivers felt they had no work life balance. This study adds to the body of knowledge that highlights the challenges caregivers face within their job role. The findings highlight that caregivers experience fatigue regardless of what type of caregiver they are or the extent of the staff to resident ratio. Caregivers are unaware that they are experiencing fatigue because their level of fatigue is normalised. This study could be used as a baseline to further investigate fatigue amongst caregivers in a larger scale with a wider population sample. Future research needs to look at educating caregivers and managers on fatigue and teach coping mechanisms or introduce a fatigue policy to minimise fatigue as recommended by Work Safe NZ and in line with The Health and Safety Act 2015.