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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.


Should all student nurses be tested on their ability to show compassion?

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Readers' comments (35)

  • Nobody needs compassion skills really.
    how you are as a person has no effect on biochemistry and microbiology, on wound healing, on the interactions on drugs, on fluid balance, on urine output and these are the only things that matter to me.

    Modern healthcare cannot be simply whittled down to what type of nurse you are and whether you show compassion. This might have mattered 30 or 40 years ago when nursing wasn't much else other than handing out tablets and applying all manner of WRONG treatments. Nurses behaviour was controlled in such ways because they are women, not because it has any mututal benefit to the patients.
    It is a cultural not clinical phenomena.

    Patients successful treatment depends on whether their 70-90 year old bodies are strong enough to withstand drug and srugical treatments, not whether we 'care or not' and the sooner we release ourselves from this fantasy on nursing as some tragic love in where we're supposed to emotionally invest in complete strangers, the sooner we'll be on our way to a profession with some resemblance of self-respect.

    I care not if nurses are happy, kind considerate or not. It makes no difference and i challenge anyone to find a single article that links how people feel to actual direct non-psychological gains in physiological recovery.
    That's right there are none.

    If anything patients need to worry less about how they are treated and more about themselves. They are the only ones with something to lose and they are the ones who must finally after all these years take responsibility for their health and recovery rather than throwing i back in my face.

    i tell my patients to take responsiblity and remind the lazy or ignorant that they too are adults and have responsibility to maintain their own health and safety as do i.

    that's good nursing, not pretending i'm their mother/father/nanny

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  • i was under the impression that this was "analysed" during the interviewing process??

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  • Wonder has anyone read "The no asshole rule" Robert l. Sutton

    Its not just the patients who suffer, I have worked with a few not many nurse who have not had compassion. It does effect there work not listening to patient, who are deteriorating because they are just a "pain" or "wreaking there head" missing signs before the obs go off.
    It was also very unpleasant because guess want they had no compassion for their colleagues either. "The I have my work done the rest of you can just swing"
    If compassion is valued then maybe not so many bullies will be able to make there way up the ranks in nursing. It could also become part of a staff nurse appraisals imagine it some of those senior nurses mentioned above were appraised on their compassion and needed a yearly referral from staff working above and below them. Would this change there behavior if there were consequences to being unkind and rude.

    Living in hope

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  • Please can we ignore the above comments and assume that the department in question is evidently badly managed and ppl there extremely stressed.

    I find it difficult to be compassionate now, at first I could have cried every time I saw a pressure ulcer on Mrs B or the fact that every patient is left to stare at the wall all day in their 'recovery time'.

    Staffing pressures, workload (that of a HCA and a mini-medic it seems) and unattainable government targets have a way of stripping good people of emotions!

    Also...3 years of constantly being assessed, never feeling good enough, staff bossing you around/ being consistently called 'the student', and uni work on top of it all takes its toll- to the point where I ask myself why I even entered the 'caring' profession after all?!

    I absolutely LOVE my patients, but after qualifying am actually considering an alternative career..I feel I need to do a job that I can actually exercise my compassion not one I have to act it whilst walking on egg-shells.

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  • (following from the last comment)..sorry I meant please ignore SOME of the comments!

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  • (following from the last comment)..sorry I meant please ignore SOME of the comments!

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  • Very glad I am not a Welsh student. Though there is a tick box method of assessing compassion in Scotland. You have to be signed off by your mentor that you treat patients with compassion, do not discriminate.

    You may not be feeling compassion really. But provided you ACT in the correct and professional manner you get your little tick and can move on to other things.

    Compassion or the appearence of compassion is a corner stone of nursing practice. Provision of Holistic Care and all that.

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  • Compassion towards our patients and relatives impact how they view the profession. It helps to reduce aggression and attacks on staff. It helps to boost the psychological recovery of our patients which can boost healing time.

    As to direct effect on physiology, depressed patients often do not eat properly which directly impacts on wound healing.

    Interstaff relations can also be improved which boosts the moral of staff. Working with uncaring and burned out nurses can make you really not want to come in for your shift when you know that they are on.

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  • Doesn't anyone else find too many of their measures of 'compassion' to be actually to be about establishing passivity and compliance in the workforce.

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  • God almighty! Whatever next. Nursung is fast becoming a laughing stock of a profession.

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