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Procedures and interventions should never take precedence over patients, write Claire Chambers and Elaine Ryder.
Compassion is the essence of caring, and therefore the essence of nursing, and yet it is not always the central focus of nursing practice As nurses, we not only need to challenge ourselves to show more compassion towards those in our care, but also we need to challenge our colleagues and stimulate discussion with our students to ensure that compassion remains central in nursing care.
There are many different definitions of compassion, but it is demonstrated most clearly by acting in a way that you would like others to act towards you. We need to reach out to others with kindness through what we say and by our physical actions.
Ability for compassion
We believe compassion is a profound feeling, which is brought about by witnessing the pain or distress of others. However, nurses can feel vulnerable by witnessing others' distress and, therefore, may want to minimise this vulnerability by distancing themselves from a patient or client in distress.
After all, if we can believe that the patient's experience is unique and could never happen to us, then we feel less at risk and more in control of our lives. This distancing of ourselves compromises our ability to be compassionate.
Wilkinson discusses the acculturation that nursing practice areas can adopt where there is an institutionalised heartlessness.1 This heartlessness is exemplified by ignoring the needs of patients and reinforcing to others, who work in that environment, that this is acceptable nursing practice.
There is a lack of conscience and kindness, and a sense of duty to others is missing. As nurses, we need to …