Compassion: A Concept Analysis
Theory has remained the framework that guides the nursing practice. Streubert & Carpenter (as cited in McEwen, 2019), described theory as a systematic explanation of an event in which constructs and concepts are identified, relationships are proposed and predictions are made. Concepts are the basic building blocks in theory construction; the concept ought to be solid and strong to uphold the structure of the theory (Walker & Avant, 2011). To enhance the nursing profession and empower the discipline, concept analysis has been utilized to strengthen theories that supports the concept. Additionally, concept analysis has been utilized in effectively defining problems that previously may have been viewed as common sense. A solid and strong concept must be clearly named, defined structure, and its uses identified function for optimal understanding of the concept within the theory that is being described, explained and predicted (Walker & Avant, 2011).
Compassion is the concept selected for analysis. The purpose of selecting compassion for analysis is to understand the meaning of compassion, the manner in which compassion is displayed by humanity and within the healthcare setting, along with discussion of nursing literatures that validates the effectiveness of compassion in the nursing profession and practice. This paper will provide the reader with the definition of compassion and its criticality to nursing, literature review/use of concept, defining attributes, antecedents and consequences, model, borderline and contrary cases, two related concepts, an operational definition, conceptual definition and conclusion to the concept analysis.
How Compassion is Critical to Nursing Practice/Profession
Compassion has always been regarded as core part of humanity. In the nursing profession, compassion has also remained an essential part of the nursing practice. The importance of compassion is recognized in many sectors of the society. Majority of the world’s religious traditions uphold compassion at the center of their belief systems. According to McNeill, Morrison ; Nouwen (as cited in Kret, 2011), the word compassion “is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together means, to suffer with” (p. 29). Compassion is sympathetic consciousness of one’s distress coupled with the desire to alleviate it.
Compassion is a fundamental part of the nursing profession. Von Dietze & Orb (as cited in Schantz, 2007), viewed compassion as a potential deterrent to making professional decisions. Florence Nightingale (as cited in Papadopoulos & Ali, 2016), viewed compassion as a moral virtue and an indispensable trait that every good nurse should possess. A good nurse ought to deliver compassionate care to patients needing care. To deliver compassionate care, the nurse ought to display empathy. Empathy begins with gaining an insight into the patient’s concerns, feelings and sources of distress; in turn, this produces compassion. A better understanding of the patient must be reached for the nurse to care for the patient in an effective, meaningful way. Compassionately rendering care to patients has extensive benefits which includes enhanced clinical outcomes, increased patient satisfaction with care, and enhanced quality of data obtained from patients (Strauss et al., 2016).
Compassion is also evident in Virginia Henderson’s human needs theory. In Virginia Henderson’s human needs theory (as cited in Wills, 2019), nurses were described as compassionately rendering care to individuals, sick or well, in the performance of activities that will contribute to health or its recovery, that the individual would perform unassisted if the strength, will and knowledge were there or present. Virginia Henderson (as cited in Nicely ; DeLario, 2011), further described nurses as “temporarily the consciousness of the unconscious, the love of life of the suicidal, the leg of the amputee, the eyes of the newly blind, a means of locomotion for the newborn, knowledge and confidence for the young mother, a voice for those too weak to speak” (p. 72). This quote demonstrated display of compassion by nurses when delivering care to individuals unable to perform self-care. Hence, compassionate holistic care is critical to good patient outcomes and vital in the nursing practice.
Definitions/Use of Concept in the Literature
Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (Compassion, 2018). This author urged three healthcare providers and three lay people to define compassion without using the dictionary. Compassion was respectively defined as followed:
• “Providing respectful care and empathy for others especially those in need” (O. Campbell, RN, personal communication, October 6, 2018).
• “Showing empathy with someone’s tragic situation” (M. Ndingwan, RN, personal communication, October 4, 2018).
• “Empathic heart in action” (A. Jones, RN, personal communication, October 6, 2018).
• “Feeling sorry and showing concern for others” (N. Osuigwe, personal communication, October 1, 2018).
• “Being sympathetic and understanding of ones suffering” (A. Dawn, personal communication, October 6, 2018).
• “Strong feeling and display of empathy, kindness and mercy towards the plight of someone” (K. Onukwugha, personal communication, October 6, 2018).
A literature search was conducted to offer further definitions of compassion. Feldman ; Kuyken (as cited in Gilbert, 2014), asserted that “compassion is a multitextured response to pain, sorrow, and anguish. Compassion comprises of kindness, empathy, generosity, and acceptance. Compassion is the capacity to be open to the reality of suffering and to aspire to its healing” (p. 98). Compassion is more than simply conveying understanding of one’s suffering, but involves insight, thoughtfulness and the ability to communicate these to a suffering person in such a way as to alleviate some of the suffering (Von Dietze & Orb, 2000). Strauss et al. (2016), defined compassion as:
A cognitive, affective, and behavioral process consisting of five elements that refer to both self-compassion and other compassion: 1) recognizing suffering; 2) understanding the universality of suffering in human experience; 3) feeling empathy for the person suffering and connecting with the distress emotional resonance; 4) tolerating uncomfortable feelings aroused in response to the suffering person i.e. distress, anger, fear so remaining open to and accepting of the person suffering; and 5) Motivation to act/acting to alleviate suffering. (p. 19).
Compassion is characterized with feelings of warmth, concern and care for another, together with a strong motivation to improve another’s wellbeing (Singer ; Klimecki, 2014). Only compassion impels and empowers people to not only acknowledge, but also act toward alleviating or removing another’s suffering or pain (Schantz, 2007).