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First students tested on compassion


The first national batch of nursing students to be tested and tracked on their ability to show compassion will be arriving at Welsh universities this September.

All higher education institutions in Wales have this year asked for nursing degree applicants to provide evidence of their caring dispositions alongside their academic qualifications.

Those accepted onto programmes will receive regular feedback on whether they are demonstrating sufficient levels of compassion and communication skills while on work placements.

Welsh Assembly Government nursing officer Jean White told Nursing Times: “We want nurses to possess personal attributes to do with being kind, compassionate, caring, honest and trustworthy.

“If you look at some of the most common complaints, they’re about a lack of compassion. We want to raise awareness that we value these things.”

Applicants have had to provide a “statement of character” from a supervisor or manager at the residential, hospital or community care setting in which they are currently working. This can be substituted with a community group leader, employer or teacher if necessary.

In interviews, candidates were then rated excellent, good, satisfactory or poor at “demonstrating an understanding of what is meant by care/caring”.

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”.

Dr White said she could see no reason why these types of questions could not be used by trusts interviewing nurses or even non clinical staff, at any level.

A team is currently evaluating the impact of the process, which has been carried out on a trial basis for the 2010-11 entry. Measures for success may include numbers of patient complaints, Dr White said.

Some nursing leaders in England have been “really interested” in the development, she added.

However, moves to assess nurses on their levels of compassion have been developing more slowly in England.

Despite former health secretary Alan Johnson’s call for nurse compassion to be measured in 2008, no specific indicators have been published by the English Department of Health.

The Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery called for staff to make a pledge to deliver “high quality, compassionate care”.

The pledge was dismissed as “an insult” by Tory health minister Anne Milton.

The first national batch of nursing students to be tested on their ability to show compassion will be arriving at Welsh universities this September.

The letter to students

Dear (Applicant’s name)

Following your application it is the policy in Wales for all students applying for either a Nursing or Midwifery course, that a Statement of Character must be completed on your behalf. It must be given by someone who has known you for a substantial period of time (normally at least a year) and who is in a position to comment objectively on your personal qualities. This person MUST NOT be a family member or personal/family friend.

You should obtain the Statement of Character from one of the following sources:

1) If you are currently undertaking ‘care’ work in a residential, hospital or community setting you MUST obtain the Statement of Character from this source - from either a manager/supervisor/registered practitioner.


2) If you are still in school/college (full or part time) - from a teacher who has personally taught you on a regular basis.

3) If you attend a youth/community/church group - from a group leader who has worked with you regularly.

4) If you are in paid employment - from a supervisor, manager or senior colleague who has worked with you regularly.

5) If you play a sport or pursue an interest outside of work or school - from a leader of the organisation that you are associated with who has met with you regularly.

6) If you undertake voluntary work or act as a carer - from a leader/supervisor of the project who has worked with you regularly.

7) If you sit on a community/school group or committee - from a leader who has sat on the committee/group with you regularly.

Statement of character

To the best of your knowledge, for each set of statements please indicate by ticking the appropriate box the response that most suits the applicant. When completing the form below 7 is the highest score you can award and 1 is the lowest. Candidates would normally be expected to have a score of 25 or above to be considered suitable, although this reference is considered in conjunction with the application form, interview and academic reference.

It would also be very helpful if you would give examples, where possible, to illustrate your response in the space provided below each statement.

1. Is always Polite / Can sometimes be abrupt even rude on occasions

2. Always seems interested in an individual / Appears indifferent

3. Is a positive listener / Does not appear to listen

4. Respects others views/opinions/wishes / Shows little awareness of others views/opinions/wishes

5. Respects others privacy and dignity / Shows little awareness of others privacy and dignity

6. Shows a caring disposition towards others / Shows little regard for others

7. Works well as a team member / Shows little awareness of team responsibilities

8. Always carries out allocated work / Needs constant supervision to ensure work is done

9. Happy to accept constructive criticism / Not happy to accept constructive criticism

Please add any other comments you feel appropriate below.


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Readers' comments (35)

  • I am sorry but do politicians get tested on their honesty??

    Please do not get me started, what is the nerve of these people, I am degree trained and we get paid no more for having a degree than if we qualified with a diploma so why should we be any less compassionate? This world is full of a wide variety of people and some will always be more compassionate than others.

    How the heck do we test for compassion, just because I say I care on an exam does it mean I really do? or am I just saying what I think they want me to say in order to pass?

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  • There's not much funny about it. You know what though, I'm really tired of apologizing for the simple fact that the system doesn't work very well. Everyday. I'm sorry that most of the population have no choice but to leave their healthcare to the fate of some silver spoon eager theorist (whatever colour, it's all the same) in parliament who's clearly taking backhanders off anyone with a slide projector and an ATM card. What's clear about the upcoming election is that whoever your voting for didn't think any of this up themselves. You've been warned.

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  • When am I meant to show compassion between washes, drug rounds, referrals, troubleshooting, searching for dressings/items, etc. I never have the time to sit down with a patient and discuss their psychosocial wellbeing (Yeah right)

    What a con the whole thing is! They should be training them to be tough. Stress management. To cope on the wards and not have a mental breakdown.

    They can go and swivel. If they want more from me than the above then I'll have a pay rise. Like other ward nurses, I put in far more than I'm paid for and I'm an asset to the NHS for working like a dog for this wage. I'm always kind and friendly to patients and family... oh it's all so stupid no wonder the public think nurses are thick.

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  • I have just searched the nhs jobs website for all jobs that contain the word compassion. Only 5 out of 7390 job descriptions (roughly about one twentieth of one percent) contained this word.

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  • OMG! some of these comments are shocking. we are talking about people here - patients are somebody's daughter/son/mum/dad etc. after experiencing time in hospital myself with 2 miscarriages the emotional side of me needed compassion to recover. had a very compassionate nurse hold my hand and sit and talk to me when had a panic attack, when i thought i was having a heart attack. so, to the nurse that said 'they can swivel ..' in an earlier post my suggestion would be find an ounce of compassion and see what a difference it makes to your patients day ... because one day you could find yourself wanting compassion at a low moment in hospital

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