Compassion is a natural human response to the pain and suffering of others. We empathize with other people and want to help them to overcome or manage their stress. Compassion can be measured in terms of our sensitivity to the feelings of others and our willingness and capacity to work towards a solution in a way that respects boundaries, shows understanding, and comes from a genuine place of love and care.
We may show compassion every day to friends, family, and even strangers, but exercising compassion in a professional context is a different matter. In many jobs, we have to put aside our personal feelings in order to conduct ourselves in a purely rational or unemotional matter. For nurses, however, compassion is a key requirement. While not as quantifiable as hard skills like patient data analysis or physiotherapy, compassion is still an essential “soft skill” that can be learned or developed to provide the highest possible standard of nursing care.
Compassionate care in nursing has been shown to make a significant difference in terms of positive outcomes for patients and patient satisfaction. Feeling that they are genuinely cared for can motivate patients to fight disease more effectively and recover more quickly.
The best technical care in the world can still leave patients feeling isolated and less capable of looking after their own health if compassion seems to be absent. Compassionate care can be considered an important part of a holistic approach to nursing that recognizes emotional well-being as intimately connected to physical recovery.
If a patient is worried about their family, financial situation, job, or other domestic matters, this will use up the energy and inner strength they need to get better. A big part of compassionate care is showing understanding for their concerns and offering reassurance, sympathy, or even practical advice where appropriate. Often, even a small gesture of support can go a long way in increasing patient resilience. Conversely, a lack of compassion can lead to depression and a sapping of the will to recover fully.
Modern nursing models emphasize working with the patient to improve their health rather than treating them as passive objects to be fixed in a mechanical manner. This patient-centered approach utilizes compassion as an equal contributor, alongside evidence-based medicine, to patient recovery.
While compassion is an innate human value, it can still be taught and developed like any other skill. Spring Arbor University Online emphasizes a spirit of service alongside up-to-date medical knowledge and competency in its nursing programs and encourages the development of a compassionate approach that takes in the whole person when assessing and administering treatment.
This is especially important when working with children and young people as a Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Spring Arbor University lets working nurses earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (MSN-PNP-PC) in their own time, with flexible, internet-based programs following a 7-1-7 model: seven-week courses with a week off between each course.
As well as learning how to prescribe medication, perform examinations, diagnose illnesses, and provide treatment, students will learn how to deliver compassionate care in pediatric services and to advocate for underserved populations in this regard.
Body language and tone of voice are often the first indicators of compassion. Making eye contact, smiling, and speaking in a sympathetic manner from the outset all help to establish a compassionate, caring professional relationship between nurse and patient. Show that you respect patient choices, are interested in your patients as individuals, and are genuinely listening to what they have to say. This will increase the chances of patients cooperating in their treatment and ultimately will aid and quicken their recovery.
Being mindful of your own and others’ emotions not only helps you to be more compassionate but also helps you to communicate better and reduces the chances of conflict, personality clashes, and misunderstandings. Be aware of how you come across and take steps to manage how you’re perceived and the effect your words and actions have on those around you.
When other people are speaking or expressing themselves, try to look beneath the surface. Seeing what they are really feeling and trying to understand why will help you to connect more meaningfully. If they’re angry, upset, or lashing out, don’t take it personally. At the same time, ask yourself how you can improve the situation and take responsibility for your own actions and emotions.
Self-awareness and self-exploration can increase your personal resilience and resistance to stress, enabling you to stay calm under pressure. Use meditation and other practices to understand your own responses and what triggers strong emotions in you. This will not only help you gain more control over your life but will help you to empathize with patients.
Showing tolerance and kindness even when you’re having a difficult day is a true sign of compassion. Try to put the patient first. Dedication to duty can often help us to put our own problems into perspective. Your own sense of well-being will improve through helping others and acting in a compassionate way makes us feel better about ourselves too.
Although it uses logical faculties rather than emotional ones, using critical thinking is an important part of demonstrating compassion. If you can approach problems without your own feelings getting in the way and can challenge received wisdom in order to find more compassionate solutions, then you’ll be better able to address the root causes of the problems you encounter.
Critical thinking requires that we look at issues from multiple perspectives. When these issues involve human beings, this means that we need to practice empathy in order to understand different points of view. Using critical thinking techniques like listening to different voices, dispassionate analysis, and recognizing where personal bias might distort your perceptions can all help us to develop compassion and put it into practice.
A sense of cultural awareness can go a long way toward showing compassion. An appreciation of cultural differences and what they mean to people is just as important as acknowledging our common humanity and universal needs. Being sensitive to the rules, conventions, and manners of a culture different from your own can help patients to feel seen and understood as people and less isolated in what is often a frightening and confusing experience.
In a nursing context, this may mean spending a bit of extra time explaining how a process is going to be conducted and why it is necessary or even finding a slightly different way of undertaking routine examinations or treatment. Actions that can be performed casually in some cultures may be seen as intrusive or shocking in others. Sometimes it might just be a case of understanding culturally-specific concerns and providing reassurance in a way that eases a patient’s mind and makes them feel less alone.
Being a good listener
Listening to other people and letting them tell their stories, or speak their truth, is a skill. In conversations, many of us are thinking about what we are going to say next instead of really listening to what the other person is saying. We tend to jump in quickly with an anecdote of our own that has been prompted by what they said rather than showing interest, empathy or encouraging them to talk further about their concerns.
People can be nervous when speaking to doctors or nurses and may lack confidence or be unsure of what they want to say. Good listening means thinking before we speak and holding space for the other person to talk rather than eagerly awaiting our turn. Sharing personal experiences of our own can increase a sense of trust and intimacy, but not at the expense of letting the other person be heard.
Resist the urge to hurry someone along or to put words into their mouth. Paraphrasing what you think they’re trying to say instead of listening to what they actually are saying can easily shut down a conversation rather than opening it up. The simple act of listening while offering quiet encouragement and understanding can be the most powerful driver of compassionate care.
As a nurse, you’ll often find yourself reassuring patients about their treatment and trying to alleviate their fears. When doing this, it’s important not to invalidate their feelings or belittle their concerns. Whatever it is that they’re worried about, don’t make them feel silly or weak for having fears or objections. Tell them that you understand what they are saying and why they feel this way before going on to explain how the medical team will do their best for them.
Compassion makes patients feel better emotionally and mentally and can also help to improve their physical condition. Knowing that someone cares and that they’re being looked after and listened to encourages them to put energy into their own recovery and means that their personal resources aren’t diverted into negative channels. By demonstrating compassionate care, nurses improve the quality of service they offer, leading to better outcomes for all concerned.