• The Experiences and Expressions of Compassion Among Experienced Critical Care Nurses

      Walker, Mark; Scrandis, Debra (2020)
      BACKGROUND: Compassion is a core attribute of nursing practice and is associated with improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. For the last several decades, nurse researchers have been focused on the concept of compassion fatigue. Only recently has compassion appeared in nursing literature. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and expressions of compassion among critical care nurses. METHODS: This dissertation includes a literature review of compassion within nursing education and practice, how it is currently defined, and a review of the empirical data. Next, two interpretative phenomenological qualitative studies were conducted. One study explored the experiences of compassion among experienced critical care nurses recognized as being highly compassionate. In the second study, leaders who had identified the compassionate nurses addressed how compassion is expressed. RESULTS: The review of the literature determined that the concept of compassion is not consistently operationalized in nursing practice. The qualitative study of the experiences of compassion revealed that these critical care nurses are motivated to connect emotionally with their patients. These meaningful connections facilitate an understanding of the patient’s circumstances which enables the nurse to identify how to best provide compassion. Three themes emerged from their experiences: presence, actions and being genuine. Additionally, the nurses obtain a deep sense of satisfaction and joy from this care that is self-sustaining. In the second study it was found that the compassionate nurses are recognized for prioritizing patient care over tasks and were able to balance the emotional and physical care of their patients. Expressions of compassion were actions that humanized the patient experience and being present with patients ANALYSIS: By exploring both the personal experiences, observations of what compassion means and how it is expressed we have a deeper insight into how compassion is operationalized in critical care settings. CONCLUSION: This study validated similar findings from previous studies that sought to define and operationalize compassion in nursing. The two studies revealed that compassionate nurses are sustained by their resilience, and deep meaningful relationships with patients and families.