Compassion in nursing: exploring the perceptions of students and academics
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Compassion in nursing: exploring the perceptions of students and academics

Collette Straughair Senior lecturer in adult nursing, Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Alison Machin Dean of health and social care and professor, School of Health & Social Care, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland

Why you should read this article
  • To understand the concept of compassion from the perspective of nursing students and nurse academics

  • To recognise the factors that can influence the delivery of compassionate care

  • To learn how you can further develop compassion in nursing

Background Compassion is integral to effective nursing practice, yet there is limited empirical research exploring this concept, particularly from a professional perspective.

Aim To advance understanding of compassion from a professional perspective, specifically through the perceptions of students and academics from the fields of adult, child, learning disability and mental health nursing.

Method A constructivist grounded theory study was undertaken, and a theoretical sampling strategy was used to guide the selection of appropriate participants. A total of 12 nursing students and eight nurse academics were interviewed to explore their perceptions of compassion in nursing between January and August 2018. The interview transcripts were analysed using grounded theory techniques.

Findings Four categories were identified from the interview data: character for compassion, competence for compassion, culture for compassion, and connections for compassion. These categories were interlinked, with each having the potential to influence the implementation of humanising approaches to care, which participants perceived to be fundamental to compassion.

Conclusion Compassion is a complex concept that can be influenced by biological, psychological and socio-contextual factors. Further consideration of these factors is required to support nurses to facilitate compassion through humanising approaches to care. The findings of this study advance the existing evidence to inform future policy, practice, education and research.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11720

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Straughair C, Machin A (2021) Compassion in nursing: exploring the perceptions of students and academics. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11720

Published online: 14 June 2021

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