Does compassionate nurse leadership exist in practice, or just in theory?
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Does compassionate nurse leadership exist in practice, or just in theory?

Beverley Ramdeen @BeverleyRamdeen Senior lecturer in adult nursing
Jandryle Trondillo @jaytrondillo Care home manager
Rachel Kent Mental health nurse, London
Charlotte Collings Recruitment and retention nurse, Essex

Our panel of nurses and healthcare professionals consider a topical nursing issue and share their views in a personal capacity only

Nursing Standard. 37, 10, 13-13. doi: 10.7748/ns.37.10.13.s9

Published: 05 October 2022


Picture credit: iStock

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Readers’ panel members give their views in a personal capacity only

For compassionate leadership to be a reality, managers must ensure all staff can develop and are valued members of the team. They should demonstrate the tenets of compassionate leadership, such as saying thank you and ensuring staff feel listened to. They should harness team members’ strengths and know areas that need to be developed. We cannot strip away the hierarchy in nursing, but we can start valuing each other more. That would lead to better work cultures and patient care.

Compassionate leadership is about accepting everyone’s differences and motivations. Leaders are compelled to respond to the growing challenge of workforce pressures and this can affect how compassion is perceived in the workplace. It is not compassion that is deteriorating, but communication. If staff understand why decisions are made, I believe it will make them more involved. Managers should focus on engagement to significantly improve perceptions about compassion.

Compassionate leadership is not just a theoretical concept. It is real and it does exist, but it is by no means universal. I want a compassionate leader, but I also want to be well led professionally. I have met compassionate leaders who make you feel better on a personal level, but if I’m not being supported and led well professionally, this can lead to difficulties, such as frustration within the team. Balancing compassion with being a strong leader isn’t easy, but it is possible, and is what we should strive for.

I have witnessed true compassionate leadership in practice, and the way colleagues respond to it demonstrates its benefits. Staff are empowered, use shared decision-making and work efficiently and happily knowing their senior support network is on hand to listen and guide them to success. It is the leadership style we say we aspire to, but it is still rare in nursing practice. A huge hierarchical shift needs to happen to see its full potential in all staffing groups–because as nurses, we all lead.

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