When you go to a hospital, chances are you’re sick or visiting someone who is. Hospitals are often viewed as a source of suffering and illness. On the other side, many of the nurses caring for the patients inside suffer from compassion fatigue.
Registered nurse Tara Rynders has seen the best – and the worst – in her colleagues.
“Our nurses are just fatigued and they’re burnt out and they’re not taking care of themselves and yet they’re also doing incredible work at the same time,” Rynders said.
To shed light on the compassion fatigue that plagues many caregivers, Rynders, who is also a dancer, created a show that was performed in a hospital.
She says, “To walk down the hospital halls and hear live music playing is just, for me, incredible.”
Scenes give perspectives of a patient facing death, the nurses caring for him, his wife, even death itself.
“Anything can happen in an instant and life just changes,” she said.
The story follows a man from the moment he enters the hospital to the moment he dies.
Rynders designed the show for a hospital, not a stage.
“I wanted to switch the perspective of people who come to the hospital to see the hospital in a different way,” she explained.
Blythe Silano needed that. She’s been coming for an infusion once a week for 15 years. Rynders is her nurse.
“She’s an amazing nurse. If she has compassion fatigue, it doesn’t show,” Silano said.
“One of the main themes to the show is to wake up and to live your life and that death doesn’t need an invitation – but neither does life,” Silano said.
Rynders, and her dance company, The Clinic, recently won a $250,000 grant to continue their work on the performance, which is called “First, Do No Harm.” They will be performing the show at two more hospitals in Colorado in the next year.
She is also working on a series of workshops to help nurses with compassion fatigue and burnout. Those workshops will include nurses writing their own compassion fatigue stories.
This is all in her extra time. Rynders is still, first and foremost, a nurse.