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Nurse competence and compassion must be considered 'in tandem'

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Compassionate elements of nursing should be considered “in tandem” with the technical aspects of the role to ensure a good relationship with patients, according to new research.

A study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, noted that UK healthcare policy had in recent years been “dominated” by the desire to focus on compassionate care – particularly in nursing.

“Technical and compassionate aspects of care…are not separate and have to be managed together”

Research paper

This had been sparked by the Francis Inquiry, which was published in 2013 on care failings at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, it added.

The study authors from Australia noted there was a perception that some nurses were unable to provide care that was compassionate and kind, as well as competent.

But their research – which looked at evidence from a range of existing studies – found both technical ability and a compassionate approach needed to be managed together.

The research paper noted nurse competence provided patients with comfort and made them feel safe. However, patients also expected nurses to display compassion as well, it said.

Meanwhile, nurses believed their ability to build a relationship with the patient relied on them being confident in their own technical abilities. Student nurses said the same.

It was also found that patients’ perspectives on what creates a caring relationship was affected by their particular condition.

“Patients’ expectations are that nurses are competent, compassionate and caring and can be trusted”

Research paper

One study indicated people with cancer might require more contact from nurses compared with others conditions associated with less pain and suffering.

“Nurses need to recognize that patients can and do distinguish between technical and compassionate aspects of care. These two elements are not separate and have to be managed together,” said the researchers from the school of nursing at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

“Patients’ expectations are that nurses are competent, compassionate and caring and can be trusted. This set of expectations needs to be upheld,” they said in their study paper.

“The evidence demonstrated that patients judge the quality of the relationship through the alignment of the explicit and implicit values demonstrated around caring behaviours and attitudes displayed by the nurse,” they said.

“Effective communication strategies together with the context or care environment were also important determinants of positive nurse-patient relationships,” they added.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • michael stone

    Quickly scanning this - I'm 100% with the authors (whether they are expressing the blindingly obvious, or claim to have 'proved the point through research'), and this is surely 'common sense' ?!

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  • Pussy

    Research??? Why? It's obvious isn't it? I despair.

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  • michael stone

    Quite, Pussy - 'the NHS' seems to require 'evidence' to back up [the NHS would say 'to prove'] 'it's obvious isn't it?' and then if there is compelling evidence to support something the politicians dislike, the evidence gets ignored.

    It is all 'very vexing indeed'.

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