Compassion fatigue in a health care worker treating COVID-19 patients: a case report

Tomoe Nishihara, Ayako Ohashi, Yuko Nakashima, Takafumi Yamashita, Kazutoshi Hiyama, Mika Kuroiwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Doctors treating COVID-19 are under extreme stress. It was reported that healthcare workers providing palliative care could present elevated levels of compassion fatigue. We herein report a case if the attending doctor of severe COVID-19 cases who felt extreme psychological difficulty and suffered from compassion fatigue. Case presentation: A 29-year-old female doctor presented with anxiety and insomnia. Her stress from overwork was exacerbated during the treatment of two related COVID-19 patients, a 47-year-old man with COVID-19 and his 76-year-old mother, who suffered acute stress disorder after the death of her son. The mother first refused treatment, but with psychiatric intervention she was able to recover and be discharged. In the course of these cases of COVID-19, their attending physician felt psychological distress and presented with insomnia and anticipatory anxiety due to the poor prognosis of the mother. After being presented with a systematic approach to improve her work situation by the hospital executive staff and undergoing psychotherapy for compassion fatigue, she recovered and was able to return to work. Conclusions: We report a physician in charge of severe cases of COVID-19, who suffered an adverse impact on her mental health. Excessively empathic engagement in the care of patients who do not survive and their relatives provides high risk for compassion fatigue. The stress-related distress of HCWs should be more widely recognized in order to improve support systems for them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalBioPsychoSocial Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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