Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Nursing (BSN)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Amber Derksen


Empathy is a skill that nurses and nursing students must use with their patients to provide high quality care and build rapport with patients. Although, the prolonged use of empathy has been shown to increase compassion fatigue in nurses and decrease quality of life. Empathy has been described as the ability to feel and understand what another is experiencing. Compassion fatigue can be described as the natural response of emotions and behaviors that occur after experiencing and suffering the traumatic experiences of others. The effects of compassion fatigue call into question quality of life (QOL) issues. Quality of life includes the physical and emotional well-being of an individual.

The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between empathy in the clinical setting and its effects on compassion fatigue and quality of life in Bachelor of Science Nursing Students. This study was a quantitative, descriptive study that used the Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL). Demographic data was also gathered to assist in analyzing and comparing results. It is logical to identify nursing students who may be at risk for compassion related fatigue. Negative outcomes of compassion fatigue can result in ineffective care for patients, an increase in medical errors, and an increase in stress. Compassion fatigue is directly related to burnout in the nursing field which often leads to emotional exhaustion and poor productivity in the workplace.

Thesis Summary

The purpose of this study was to study the effects of empathy on compassion fatigue and quality of life in nursing students. Empathy has been shown to increase compassion fatigue in nurses over time due to the stress and grief they experience from suffering patients.The Professional Quality of Life Scale was used to survey BSN students in their third and fourth years of school. The scale assessed the levels of compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress the students have experienced so far as a result of their academic and clinical experiences.

Included in

Nursing Commons