Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


Leading with compassion

  • Comment

Nurses must be able to speak up if they are to provide patient-centred care

I came into nursing by accident, or so I thought. I recall my careers adviser telling me I would make a great nurse. “What does he know?” I said to my mum in complete disbelief. “Me a nurse? I do not have what it takes to be a nurse.”

Now, 20 years later, I reflect on the qualities and behaviours he saw in me that made him so right.

The chief nursing officer’s 6Cs in the Compassion in Practice strategy highlights the behaviours and core values that underpin great nurses. These are continually strengthened with daily experience.

Nurses with true leadership qualities will continually provide high-quality, compassionate care, making sure the patient is at the centre of all they do. However, the events at Mid Staffordshire serve as a reminder that compassion in nursing is lacking.

As a nurse working in general practice, my interpretation of compassion is that I treat everyone as an equal and provide accessible care with the utmost dignity and respect. Every consultation is unique and individualised.

Ways to show compassion

● Negotiate to ensure your employer manager and team understand the changes that need to be made
● Work on building relationships
● Think about how to make interventions truly holistic
● Challenge care and think about it from the patient’s perspective
● See the patient not the disease or condition
● Make sure you are hearing the patient’s voice

We must ensure the patient’s voice is heard. This means speaking out on the patient’s behalf if aspects of the system are not allowing nurses to put patients at the centre. When a patient says they are seen as a disease rather than a person, we have to sit up and listen to what they are saying.

To change is to challenge and that requires courage and commitment but it is truly the right thing to do. This core belief has allowed me to challenge how I individualise care, focusing on the patient’s priorities while ensuring high-quality, evidence-based care is maximised.

Engaging in clinical supervision and using peer support networks have been key support mechanisms for me throughout.

It hasn’t been easy getting practice managers and GPs to agree to a longer consultation time so that a more holistic approach to care can be undertaken. A smear should not be seen as a sole task but as an opportunity for a well woman review to include sexual health and family planning, and long-term condition reviews should include care planning and agenda setting. Providing truly individualised, patient-centred consultations.

This requires negotiation so the employer, manager and practice team all have a clear understanding of the rationale behind changes requested and the expected outcomes and benefits. More importantly, it requires me to continually build relationships so that patients can continue to bring not only their concerns but also that of their whole family.


Sharon Poll has worked for the NHS for 18 years across acute trusts, training and education, occupational health and medical sales. For the last nine years, she has worked in primary care as a lead practice nurse, and the last three years as a chronic disease management lead nurse for Liverpool Community Health Trust

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.