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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)

  • After reading all the comments above, really make me believe that we nurses are own worst enemies.But, first of all let me get to the main point of this discussion which is asking if you are compassionate or how it is measured.Yes, it can be measured by yourself.If you look at the patient you are caring for thinking that he or she could have been your mum, dad, aunty, uncle or even your kid and treat that patient like he or she is your kin even though you may be tired, felt under valued and so on...and most of all, know that your patient is your bread and butter and why you exist as a NURSE, then you can pad your important self on the shoulder and you have passed the compassion test. As for all the petty argurments about smoking, next time you look at the mirror, perhaps you can see your self for who you really are. Gordon Brown shows his true identity when he was caught calling his supporter a bigot.I am sorry if this ring true to some nurses. Please remember that our patients deserve good professional nurses and be proud to be one.

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  • Depends what your relationship was/is like with your family Jenny!! Given the previous comments I would be on very shaky ground to rely on that or self assessment capacity as a benchmark or guarantee of even the most basics.

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  • The remarks about social class by the way really are quite something. I didn't realise there were people who still held such ridiculous views nevermind had the lack of self awareness or professionalism to broadcast them.

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  • How do you measure compassion? Perhaps by being empathetic, listening and caring for people? Or by observing and reflecting on practice and going by feedback? Which ever it is I prefer to treat people with respect and treat them as I would want to be treated.

    As for the issue of class, I have a few degrees. As do my siblings. My father trained as a doctor. His siblings, nieces and nephews all graduated university with minimum honors degree, 2 even obtained Phds. Likewise on my mother's side there are a few graduates and a Phd holder. Does that make me working class? I have never smoked or drank either for that matter. How does one measure class? Is it by education, occupation, style of dress, language skills, where you live, salary, lifestyle choice or by any other means?

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  • All degree profession? Well that's a bit of a joke anyway - my degree course included a number of lectures on the correct use of the apostrophe. When I complained that the course was meant to be at degree level, I was told 'you'd be surprised...'

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  • Anon,30.04.2010 4.30pm. You are absolutely right.It depends on your relationships with your kin. What I was trying to impart was that Nurses should have the basic compassion for another human beings. Treat your patients as you would like to be treated with dignity,respect ,kindness, humility and humanity.But as you said after reading some of the comments I also doubt if they have the basics.However, I have met some great nurses out there.

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  • Martin Gray

    Anon 30/4 @4:33.

    Yes it is unfortunate that, even in today's so-called class society, there is STILL some form of classification - whether this be blue collar or white collar worker or professional.

    These terms are continually referred to throughout society, so we will never have a 'classless utopia' where all are deemed equal - it never worked in the Soviet Union after all!

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  • anon 1st May 1:44 pm this problem is not just seen in nursing degree courses but in degree courses in general. I have a niece and nephew who were both boarding school educated. Both have since graduated university with degrees in science and now work in management. One in advertising the other in the forces. Neither of them can spell correctly; and as far as grammar is concerned my primary school aged child demonstrates better grasp, and constantly comments on the mistakes printed in their various newsletters!! However I'm sure that none of this is really an indicator of compassion, is it?

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  • Meh..a little from camp A, a little from camp B, if im being honest.

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  • Are you compassionate, or too busy to care?



    Wouldn't be doing the job without compassion and wouldn't have chosen nursing as a career - there are plenty other jobs out there to chose from where it might appear to matter less although any employment involving other people requires compassion and understanding which should go without saying and not necessitate wasting space on an article and discussion in Nursing Times

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