Compassion Fatigue and Moral Injury: How Are Your Clinicians Coping?

Posted on December 2, 2020 by Susan Wilson, MD, CPC

Updated December 4, 2020

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in the majority of states, frontline healthcare workers in your organization are likely to be stressed in ways beyond the pre-COVID challenges of medical practice. Even if caseloads have leveled off where you are, your people are probably still struggling with aspects of the unpredictability and deadliness of the pandemic, not to mention financial worries and concerns about their own health.moreintenseburnout

COVID stress shows up in many ways, but two concerning manifestations you should identify and address are as follows:

Compassion Fatigue

Running on empty. Clinicians who have been giving their all for a long time under the grueling torment of the virus can simply run out of emotional fuel. They are still providing medical care but they are unable to give emotional support to their patients at a time when it is really needed. Also known as depersonalization, compassion fatigue is one of the three major components of burnout, along with physical exhaustion and a feeling of inadequacy.

Moral Injury

Clinicians run the physical risk of contracting COVID-19, but they also are faced with injuries to their moral conscience—whether they have made mistakes or have been forced to make decisions violating their sense of what’s right and wrong. The pandemic has ratcheted up the moral struggles within today’s medical practice by forcing many clinicians to make agonizing decisions regarding patient access to limited resources.1

Learn ways to identify and deal with compassion fatigue, moral injury and other serious emotional-health issues that may be affecting your organization in our article, Best Practices for the COVID-19 Recovery Process.

Download our article, Best Practices for the COVID-19 Recovery Process, to learn more about the importance of caring for your clinicians' well being, knowledge on how to provide assistance in recovery and practical advice on how to navigate the complex needs of your organization throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


*Kane, Leslie, MA, “Medscape US and International Physicians' COVID-19 Experience Report: Risk, Burnout, Loneliness” Medscape, September 11, 2020.

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