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Are you compassionate, or too busy to care?


Overdue or over-egged? Beyond the Bedpan puts compassion tests to the test

You can’t see us, but Beyond the Bedpan is gazing lovingly at you as you read this. We’re plumping your pillows and gently brushing that stray hair from your face. We’ve made you a cup of tea and - can you smell that? It’s the scent of freshly cut flowers placed gently on your bedside in a vase we bought for you. What’s that? No, we’re not in love with you! We’re being compassionate obviously. Can’t you tell?

Well, if you supervise placements in Wales you’re going to have to get pretty good at knowing compassion when you see it.

The news this week that nursing students are to be tested on how compassionate they are seems to have, as usual, split opinion on But at least you’re an articulate lot.

“This article makes me want to vomit,” says the first commenter, “but not as much as the apparent fascination with a concept that defies the laws of logic and common sense.”

And it seems that many of you agree that it won’t be easy to measure compassion. After all, as one reader adds: “A person might ACT compassionate but not BE compassionate - Dr Shipman was universally considered to be a very compassionate man. We now know he was not.”


But some people think that the idea is long overdue: “I am amazed that it’s taken management so long to take this vital subject seriously.”

Another adds “Anyone can administer treatment but to do it with compassion is the essence of nursing. Time pressures and stresses are ever increasing but remember each patient could be a member of your family and should be treated as a person not a disease.”

So how do you go about testing for compassion?

On placements, supervisors will be asked to rate students on a scale from one to seven on how they meet a range of standards, including: “Is always polite”, “Happy to accept constructive criticism” and “Shows a caring disposition towards others”.

But forget that, it sounds like a lot of work. Instead we’ve come up with the perfect one question test for nursing students.

How do you feel about your patients?

a)  I wish they’d all leave me alone and stop pestering me. I’m busy, I want to chat to the nice doctor in the staff room and then nip out for a fag.

b)  I want to give them the best care possible, ensuring that they are comfortable and have everything they need.

There, that should sort the wheat from the chaff.


Readers' comments (32)

  • I thought NT was supposed to be a professional journal for busy professional people and an aid for them to advance their career and provide the highest quality care. Please could we stick to the issues raised in articles and in the comments produce some constructive and stimulating arguments instead of using it as a platform for personal and childish slanging matches which often have nothing to do with the article written. The comments are an insult to the authors as well as the readers and to the intelligence of both. We all have better things to do than trawl through all this trash but nevertheless most professionals need a high quality professional journal and NT used to fit this description. There are plenty of other opportunities on the Internet to network at a lower intellectual level and many of these comments are an insult to those who take the nursing profession and the patients they serve seriously!

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  • as smoking has been brought up in the comments following this article, I am curious to know how long these breaks are, outside the official breaks, for a quick puff. Now smoking is not allowed on the wards or on hospital premises nurses must have to go some distance where it is permitted which must require more time and leaving those who do not smoke to run the ward and do their work during their absences. We were never allowed to stop for a quick cup of coffee outside our official breaks and we were told when to take these and not our biological clocks yet smokers were allowed different priviledges putting more stresses and strain on their non-smoking colleagues. We often did not have time even to go to the loo as and when nature dictated but had to exercise restraint, let alone go and fix our hair or make up or clean our teeth after meals. Coffee break was 15 minutes and lunch break 30 minutes but by the time we had waited for a lift and queued up in the cafeteria and then got back to the ward again it was considerably shorter - just great for trying to relax on a stressful shift, I don't think! If you needed to go to the bank or postoffice or other then a drink or meal had to be forfeited. Quick breaks for a drink or cup of coffee for us non-smokers would have been appreciated too.

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