Whenever individuals fall sick, they become more vulnerable and need assistance from others even in the most insignificant ways; it is during such periods that they need to be treated with care and compassion. While healthcare professionals may prioritize the efficacy of various treatment options, they need to enhance the quality of patient-professional relationships. Compassion plays a key role in these relationships, and it is not only a human and moral part of our being but also a virtue and required trait in nursing. Compassion involves being sympathetic to others' distress and wanting to alleviate it.
Dalvandi et al. (2019) defined compassion as a philosophical foundation in the nursing profession that involves feelings evoked by others' pain, which leads to taking measures to help them. In other words, compassion in healthcare implies understanding other people's suffering and the readiness to help them by finding solutions to their problems. Considering the importance of compassion-based care, such as improved patient satisfaction, increased staff motivation and retention, improved patient safety, and enhanced involvement of patients and their families in care, it is vital to discuss some ways compassionate care can be delivered in healthcare settings.
First, compassionate care is essential because it positively influences patient satisfaction with healthcare services. Being compassionately responsive to the healthcare needs of the patients enables nurses to establish therapeutic relationships with their patients. Notably, compassion-based care is centered on empathy and effective communication, and these attributes can lead to better satisfaction with the quality of care. Compassion makes nurses pay attention to patients' specific needs and strengthens patient-nurse relationships, which leads to positive patient care experiences. For example, compassionate care improves patient perceptions of care and mitigates patient complaints or litigation issues.
Apart from improving patient satisfaction, compassionate care leads to increased staff motivation and retention. Compassion is inversely correlated with nurse burnout since it is a protective factor. It is also associated with compassion satisfaction. Compassion is a motivating factor that enables healthcare professionals to be resilient and develop a greater capacity to respond with compassion to the distress and suffering experienced by patients. In healthcare environments where compassion prevails, healthcare professionals have reduced stress and higher satisfaction. Job satisfaction is a critical determinant in nurse turnover, and when there is higher satisfaction, there is a corresponding higher retention rate. They also become more loyal, dedicated, and engaged in their work. Compassion can also lead to better interpersonal relationships where care for the well-being of others and help them overcome their stressors. Therefore, healthcare organizations must nurture and sustain the value of compassion because this will increase staff morale, engagement, satisfaction, and retention.
The importance of compassionate care in enhancing patient safety cannot be overemphasized. Compassion reduces unnecessary medical care by having fewer diagnostic tests and referrals. Compassionate nurses are likely to make more appropriate healthcare decisions. For instance, nurses are expected to prevent the undesired consequences of the medical procedures and treatments delivered to patients and to keep them safe by being aware of the multidimensional factors that can disrupt patient safety. However, nurses with decreased levels of compassion are at an increased risk of spending less time with patients, developing attention deficit, and making medication errors that undermine patient safety. Besides that, compassion enhances patient safety by improving patient adherence to treatment. Provider compassion positively affects adherence to self-management behavior. Since compassionate nurses develop deeper connections with patients, they are better positioned to assess their coping ability and motivate them to focus on the desired outcomes. In summary, compassionate care improves patient safety by leading to better patient adherence to treatment and making healthcare professionals more inclined to make more appropriate healthcare decisions.
Additionally, compassionate care leads to improved involvement of patients and their families in care. Compassionate care is a patient-centered approach that facilitates the inclusion of patients' and families' values and preferences before making healthcare decisions. Patients are human, and involving them or their families in all decisions concerning their care plan is vital. Compassionate care catalyzes and strengthens patient involvement in their care because patients become more willing and comfortable to share their feelings and concerns, demonstrating their desire to take an active role in decision-making. The absence of compassionate care limits the ability of patients to participate in their care and only makes them passive recipients of nursing care. Compassionate care also improves nurses' ability to determine the needs of their patients and families before settling for the most appropriate approaches. Compassionate nurses understand the patient's distress, and since they involve the patients and families in their care, the nurses clarify how various nursing interventions can alleviate their suffering. While it may seem ordinary for nurses to consider the needs and involve patients and families in their care, these little significant actions make the difference to patient experiences in healthcare.
Having highlighted the significance of compassionate care, it is also essential to describe how healthcare professionals can deliver compassionate care in practice. One of the ways is to offer training in compassion skills. Compassionate behaviors can be taught, and it is vital to consider the staff members' innate qualities, life experiences, and interpersonal skills before offering such training. Continuous compassion skills training can help healthcare providers hear, empathize, apologize to their patients, respond to their questions, and thank them. The training should also focus on the healthcare providers' active listening and observation skills.
After being trained in compassion skills, healthcare professionals can deliver compassionate care by being active listeners. Active listening is a requirement for healthcare practitioners who want to create good and lasting impressions with their patients. They can demonstrate this by paying attention and giving relevant feedback and responses. Healthcare providers can also deliver compassionate care by providing emotional support. While the desire to treat a patient may come naturally to healthcare providers, sometimes the best answer is to show emotional support to the patient. Being emotionally present to a patient and showing compassion fosters a positive patient-nurse relationship as well as the relationship with the healthcare organization.
In conclusion, compassionate care is the core of nursing and a demonstration of nurses' humanity and kindness to share in the suffering of their patients. It is a patient-centered practice that can improve patient satisfaction and safety. Compassionate care also leads to greater patient and family involvement in care. The importance is not limited to the patients alone because nurturing a culture of compassionate care in healthcare organizations can boost staff motivation, engagement, and retention. It is critical to emphasize the continuity of compassionate care in the healthcare system by equipping healthcare providers with the requisite compassion skills. These skills will enable them to deliver compassionate care while listening actively to their patients and being emotionally available to them.