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The purpose of this study was to examine the levels of compassion fatigue student nurses experienced while assisting hurricane victims and if these levels changed after they returned. This study examined the levels of risk for compassion fatigue student nurses experienced while assisting hurricane victims and if these levels changed after they returned. Subscale levels of secondary stress (or compassion stress) and burnout also were examined for presence during the hurricane and post hurricane. Variables related to the levels of compassion fatigue which may have influenced changes in the levels of compassion fatigue from time of the hurricane experience to the time after they returned were analyzed. There were 24 original participants, but only 15 returned completed data sets, which were used for analysis. Findings suggest that student nurses were not at risk for compassion fatigue, although they did feel compassion stress. A significant negative correlation was found between the sense of accomplishment students reported feeling and their levels of risk for compassion fatigue. A significant positive correlation was found between a perceived sense of personal/family/work disruption and risk level for compassion fatigue. These relationships were also found for the subscale measurements of compassion stress and burnout. The students' length of service which was only one week, as well as their feelings of accomplishments were likely protective factors for experiencing high levels of risk for compassion fatigue. Also, because this was their first experience volunteering in a disaster, the novelty and excitement of volunteering may have been a protective factor. While high levels of compassion fatigue were not present in this study, there is much literature supporting that those who are exposed to disaster situations can develop compassion fatigue. This study warrants replication while addressing the limitations of this study. Additionally, nurse educators should consider including disaster preparedness as a part of nursing curricula.
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