The erosion of compassion starts early in nurses’ careers, according to a new report by the healthcare think tank the King’s Fund.
The perception that nursing is becoming less compassionate has prompted both the government and individual trusts to explore ways of measuring nurses on their levels of compassion.
A new King’s Fund report Enabling Compassionate Care in Acute Hospital Services concludes that nurses need better support during the earliest years of their career if they are to be more compassionate to patients.
The full report, seen by Nursing Times, said that while most students entered health care because they wanted to make things better, after qualifying they become less empathetic and more distanced from patients.
‘Newly qualified nurses have a coherent and strong set of espoused ideals around delivering high-quality, patient centred, holistic and evidence-based care,’ the report stated.
‘However, within two years in practice the majority of these nurses experienced frustration and some level of burnout as a consequence of their ideals and values being thwarted.’
The King’s Fund also warned that if trusts placed too much emphasis on finance then levels of compassion among their nursing staff were likely to suffer as a result.
‘If finance and productivity are perceived as being the only things that matter it can have profound negative effects on the way staff feel about the value placed on their work as caregivers,’ it stated. ‘This makes it more difficult to cope with the inevitable emotional and psychological demands of the job.’
The report recommended that more emphasis needed to be placed on the ‘human aspects’ of clinical care in pre-registration training, with ‘values’ of showing compassion ‘instilled’.
Additionally, it called on trusts to better support nurses in dealing with the stress they faced working on the frontline, which could compromise compassion.
It said NHS trusts would do well to offer regular support through groups and stress management workshops to staff.
‘The regular support of a group of colleagues who face similar situations can be an ideal opportunity to speak out about traumatic and difficult encounters and dilemmas faced recently,’ the report stated.