Can compassion be taught?

It has been quite a day.

It was very good to see compassion in nursing feature so heavily on BBC breakfast and to have the chance to take part in a live studio discussion on the issues raised when we think about nurses and the extent to which their compassion is reliably present in their care giving.

Thank you to BBC breakfast and to BBC Radio Wales for picking up the story and inviting me to take part in a compassion specific phone in – more on this here

Thanks to NESTA and The Observer for vision in identifying Britain’s New Radicals – proud to be connected to such innovative and passionate people – more here

Thank you to Charlotte Ashton for her interest and research which has led to these stories and a growing conversation. See BBC on line features on compassion here and on social enterprise here

As I said when asked today I am not sure that we need to teach compassion – my assumption is that nurses want to be kind and want to show the care that (for the vast majority) bought them into the profession. Are leaders creating the conditions for compassion to be expressed so that patient care is continuously improving and staff are full of confidence and energy?

I suspect most leaders in the NHS have other ‘more pressing’ issues at the front of their minds and that they too need support to develop more healthy and reflective cultures.

The twitter response to a day exploring compassion ‘coaching’ has been interesting with responses ranging from the extremely abusive to the completely inspired – the subject has certainly got people talking.

My hope is that the nurses in Essex have been the catalyst for an important debate which will result in some deep changes in nurse education, integrated health and social care practice and the leadership style in the NHS and other care giving environments.

The compassion programme is working in everyday practice – that seems reason enough to feel a sense of urgency to invite more nurses and leaders to join in.  When we feel vulnerable we all need to recieve compassion and kindness. It is a tragedy when nurses lose their way and the care they feel is not shown in the way they behave – for them and the nursing profession but most of all for the patients and their families who are on the receiving end of care that is lacking compassion and can even be cruel and apparently heartless.

I have three full days of travel and compassion training ahead of me and it has been a very long few days so I will sign off now – but not before posing a question that I plan to explore here and elsewhere:-

To what extent will the proposed reforms in health and social care create and sustain consistently compassionate care?

Please feel free to comment or to begin a conversation with us about compassion.

Warm wishes

Andy

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2 Responses to Can compassion be taught?

  1. begethers says:

    Thanks Gill for your support and encouragement in recent weeks and for your comment.

    Spot on – culture that supports and welcomes empathy is what we all want and need.

    Thank you for the super work you are doing at ‘Whose Shoes’

  2. Whose Shoes? says:

    Congratulations Andy on being selected as one of NESTA’s prestigious “50 Radicals”. A huge achievement and one which has brought the spotlight onto the importance of compassion in care.

    In my view, it is not worth too much debate about whether or not compassion can or should be taught. The key issue is around providing the right culture so that nurses / care staff feel comfortable engaging with patients and making every interaction one they would wish for themselves or their own family members in the same circumstances.

    A minute taken out to “walk in the shoes of” the recipient is all it usually takes for people to “get it” and see the part that each of us has to play in promoting dignity and quality of life in every situation.

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