Compassion fatigue hits teachers, health workers

Almost two years in the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental strain and demanding work leaves educators and health care workers battling compassion fatigue. It's left them second-guessing their purpose or questioning if anyone notices their effort.

"It's where healthcare providers, caregivers, begin to distance themselves and are emotionally damaged," Intermountain Medical Center ICU nurse Janine Roberts said. "Just struggles of, 'How long can I keep doing this?' There's so much pressure to perform."

With misinformation and mistrust in medicine, she can feel community support wavering.

"On social media, on public posts, things like that, I've just lost it because people are not supportive. They're very distrusting," she said. "It's really hard."

Heidi Matthews, the president of the Utah Education Association, said exhaustion among educators varies by district.

"The fatigue comes when you're not seeing the progress or you're not being able to achieve what you know is what our kids need," Matthews said.

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She said safety concerns, additional responsibilities and staffing shortages are taking a toll on teachers. They stress for their students but also their loved ones outside work.

"They care about their students. They care about their students' families," Matthews said. "But they also have their own families and their own circumstances and finding that balance has been really difficult for everyone."

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For those who feel like their lives have returned relatively to normal, they ask you to think of those still working in the thick of it all.

"Reach out to them and thank them — it doesn't have to be anything fancy," Roberts said. "Just reach out to them and let them know they are in a tough career right now and they have remained in it for whatever period of time is really special and it does take a special kind of person."