Healthcare Professional Burnout and Resilience

2017 AMS Phoenix Fellow Dr. Jones-Bonofiglio on Compassion in Nursing

AMS would like to introduce you to our new 2017 Phoenix Fellow, Dr. Kristen Jones-Bonofiglio. Dr.  Jones-Bonofiglio is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing and Director in the Centre for Health Care Ethics at Lakehead University.

AMS Fellow Dr. Jones-Bonofiglio

Why did you decide to become a healthcare professional?

I decided to become a nurse when I was five years old, because my grandmother was a nurse. I never met her but I saw pictures of her in a crisp white dress uniform and a cap. I made myself a cap out of paper and secured it to my head with bobby pins. I wore that homemade cap as often as I could as a little girl. Oddly enough, I also wore it while playing school with my younger sister and stuffed animals. Perhaps I was destined to become a nurse educator?

What was the catalyst for your interest in compassion in healthcare?

In various nursing environments, I have become sensitized to the lack of compassion for self that can occur when nurses experience profoundly difficult practice realities. These complex emotional burdens can lead to experiences of moral residue and moral injury which require healing and capacity building for resilience. Recently, it has concerned me that we really don’t teach students about any of these concepts; the heavy moral, ethical, and sometimes spiritual burdens that they will endure. I am dedicated to exploring ways to nurture and sustain resilience among health care providers to protect their well-being from the realities of contemporary practice.

How were you introduced to the Phoenix Program?

I was introduced to the Phoenix Program by Dr. Michelle Spadoni. She generously brought me to a Phoenix North Conference in 2015. It was there that I met Dr. Marion Briggs.  That amazing conference experience, hearing about many incredible Phoenix-supported projects, and ongoing support from both Michelle and Marion inspired me to apply for a Fellowship. I applied in 2016 year, but was unsuccessful. Undeterred, I applied again and here I am!

What value does being an AMS Fellow bring to you professionally?

Being an AMS Fellow positively impacts me professionally in many different ways. First, it connects me with an inspiring group of individuals with creative energy and innovative ideas. Second, it further expands my research and education networks beyond Northwestern Ontario. Third, it develops my personal capacity for leadership and scholarship by providing time, space, funding, and mentorship. What’s the value of this? Tremendous!

I met a few other Phoenix Fellows when I attended the conference two years ago. One Fellow who comes to mind is Dr. Kerry Boyd. She created videos on compassionate communication and caring for/about patients with developmental delays, see  I invite you to scroll down to the video titled “Hallelujah.”

What one little thing could we do to make our healthcare system more compassionate?

Every practitioner must be mindful that the crux of their work is to facilitate and provide care during some of the most profound and vulnerable times in people’s lives. We are spectrum dwellers; from cradle to grave, joys to sorrows, and every day in between. We must be mindful of the honour and privilege of this compassionate healing work.

Have you ever been given advice by a patient that changed the way you practice medicine?

Yes, the best advice by patients (although not said explicitly) has always been to remind me of the power of humour. Patients who invited laughter into my communication with them helped to balance the relationship to equal ground and strengthen the therapeutic interaction. There is something about connecting with someone over a funny moment with shared understanding that is absolutely priceless.

What advice do you have for healthcare professionals to avoid/overcome compassion fatigue and burnout?

You may not agree, but a colleague once told me that compassion fatigue comes from inside individuals (internal source) and burn out stems from environments/organizations (external source). I’m sure these two concepts have other distinct differences as well as overlapping areas of similarity. The advice that I would give is to practice self-compassion. To treat yourself with the same values (e.g., respect, dignity, care) and ethics that you would toward a patient – to nurse the nurse! And yes, this advice is for medical students and all health care providers and students too. Self-compassion also includes reaching out for help and professional assistance as needed. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok to stay not ok.

About the author

Dr. Kristen Jones-Bonofiglio
  • AffiliationLakehead University

Self-Compassion as the Foundation for Well-Being & Compassionate Care …

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