WHAT COMPASSIONATE CARE MEANS TO NURSING
The vision set out by the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Department of Health Nursing Director recognised the importance of addressing the quality of care following the failings at Winterbourne View and Mid-Staffordshire Hospital (Cummings, J and Bennett, V, 2012). The Chief Nursing Officer for England and Department of Health Nursing Director consequently founded the six essential values of a care giver; care, compassion, communication, competence, courage and commitment (6C’s) (Cummings, J and Bennett, V, 2012). This essay is going to look at the meaning of compassion, explore its importance within a healthcare setting and outline how compassionate care can be delivered. This essay will also identify reasons why compassionate care can become exhausted and how to overcome this problem.
Compassion is about providing intelligent care which exhibits empathy, kindness, trust, respect and dignity, but moreover, it is how the patient feels about the care they receive (Cummings and Bennett 2012). To provide compassionate care requires a personal obligation to recognise the suffering of another person and to actively commit to alleviate that pain (Straughair, 2012). The nurse has a duty to provide care and promote health and wellbeing of the patient, therefore, in moments of suffering it is important to provide compassion (Cingel 2009). Nurses and midwives are bound by the NMC Code (2010) to treat patients as individuals with kindness, consideration and dignity in a non-discriminatory way.
Compassion in practice is important to show patients that they are not alone in their suffering, if it is not acknowledged, patients will feel ignored, thus escalating the feelings of distress and denying the importance of a loss (Cingel, 2009). This can be demonstrated from a workplace observation where a patient with a brain injury was left alone sobbing in the dining room while staff ignored and dismissed her usual behaviour, this led to her becoming anxious and more withdrawn. The absence of compassion gave rise to feelings of uncomfortableness and although it was questioned, on reflection, the lack of experience and courage meant this insensitive behaviour was regretfully not fully challenged. Cingel (2009), suggests acknowledging the suffering can help the patient to deal with underlying emotions such as anger or anxiety, however, compassion does not eliminate the suffering it simply allows a patient to feel cared for. A workplace example demonstrates this point; whilst comforting someone during the aftermath of a traumatic labour, where the patient’s baby had been rushed to the neonatal unit and the mother left on a post natal ward feeling anxious and scared. This particular case required both compassion and communication i.e. good listening, eye contact, and a gentle hand placed on the patient’s hand represented a caring and compassionate touch. Being empathetic allowed the patient to talk through her emotions which alleviated some of her stress but it did not take away the pain she was feeling inside and the longing to be with her baby.
Foster (2013) believes that compassion is an innate quality which can be delivered in many different ways and Cingel (2009) believes that to deliver compassionate care in practice involves building relationships with patients by creating common ground whilst being able to maintain a professional standard. This means that nursing staff need to be able to distance themselves from making personal judgments whilst being able to connect with the patient on an individual level, in order to personalise compassionate care. For example, one occasion when helping a distressed breastfeeding mother whose baby would not latch required encouragement in a non-judgemental way so that she did not feel a failure. Remaining professional in order to educate her with a method that best suited her and sharing personal experiences allowed...
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