compassionate nurse
Nursing News October 29, 2018

By Moira K. McGhee, Contributor

Compassionate Nurse: The Importance of Compassion in Nursing

A compassionate nurse is empathetic to the pain and suffering of her patients, which is vital to the patients’ well-being. Compassionate care makes patients more comfortable when they’re in pain, feeling ill or suffering from mental or emotional stress. By demonstrating compassion, you provide your patients with the support and confidence they need to prepare for a lengthy recovery, face a frightening surgical procedure or fight a devastating disease.

Compassion in Nursing Definition

Defining compassion is difficult with everyone forming their own personal definition of the word, but Merriam-Webster defines it as sympathetic awareness of another’s distress combined with a desire to alleviate it. In the world of nursing, compassionate care isn’t simply about relieving suffering but “entering into a patient’s experience and enabling them to retain their independence and dignity.”

Importance of being a compassionate nurse

Compassion in nursing takes a nurse from competent care that includes the required skills and knowledge to treat their patients to outwardly caring through actions and deeds that involve the emotional aspects of the relationship. A nurse’s compassionate care can affect a patient’s outcome, advises Becca Koplowitz, Nurse Advocate at Murse World, an online company providing men's scrubs.

“The nurse's compassion is an invaluable aspect of care,” states Koplowitz, “because it provides patients with emotional support, which can lessen depression and strengthen the patient's will to survive.”

Compassionate nursing is broadly associated with caring actions. Examples of compassion in nursing include:

  • Being empathetic to better understand what your patients are going through
  • Getting to know your patients to better understand their needs
  • Giving patients someone to talk to, which is especially important for patients who don’t have family or friends to lean on
  • Being an active listener when patients discuss their health issues or complaints, which also helps you pick up on unspoken concerns
  • Solidifying your bond with patients by following up with their health concerns or complaints
  • Providing emotional support during critical times of your patient’s treatment and recovery
  • Using a positive voice and body language to imbue confidence in your patients about their eventual recovery
  • Knocking on the door before entering to show patients respect, dignity and a modicum of privacy where privacy is often limited
  • Taking time to explain tests and procedures and answering your patients’ questions, so they feel important
  • Helping relieve your patients’ concerns, so they can concentrate on getting well


Benefits of compassionate nursing

Being a compassionate nurse not only benefits the patient, it also benefits the nurse. Nurses more concerned about their patients’ well-being and the pain and fear they feel typically enjoy their jobs more and feel more connected to their careers. 

Providing emotional support to your patients can also offer tremendous self-gratification, but take care to not fall victim to compassion fatigue. When caring for your patients becomes too much of an emotional drain, you could experience a mix of emotional, physical and behavioral symptoms; mental and physical exhaustion; and emotional withdrawal.

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