Compassionate Care Initiatives - Nurses Caring for Nurses

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  • Trauma Columnist
    Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 32 years experience.

Compassionate care is what nursing is all about. However, how do nurses receive compassionate care? We need compassion in order to get through our busy days.


"We have to graduate nurses with their souls intact" stated Dorrie Fontaine, RN, PhD, FAAN.

Pioneering Spirit Award

Dr. Fontaine recently won the AACN Pioneering Spirit Award which recognizes "significant contributions that influence acute and critical care nursing. Successful applicants exemplify a pioneering spirit, influencing the direction of acute and critical care nursing. The recipient addresses or resolves a significant issue facing acute and critical care nursing on a regional or national scale.” Dr. Fontaine is the Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Virginia. She is known as a champion of inclusion, diversity, and supporter of the bedside nurse.

Compassionate Care Initiative

"After a transformational experience at the Upaya Zen center funded through the generosity of Tussi Kluge, Dorrie Fontaine was inspired to explore how the healthcare system could be transformed through using mindfulness practices to develop nurse's resiliency and empathy. The program, called the Compassionate Care Initiative, has become the cornerstone of Dean Fontaine's work.”

She endorses "environments where nurses can flourish.” Dr. Fontaine was recently interviewed by Mary Watts, BSN, RN,'s Content and Community Director. Dr. Fontaine went on to talk about how nursing has changed over the years and how much harder it is to be a nurse today.


"Being fully present for our patients means we must take care of ourselves first. Too much work, difficult-to-navigate medical records, co-worker conflicts all lead to nurses being very frustrated.”

Mary asked about solutions to this "lack of joy" regarding our work. Dr. Fontaine cited some examples of how to remedy this situation:

  • We need to be kind to each other first
  • Be respectful and aware that we can change
  • Pay attention to what's going on around us
  • Champion "human flourishing"
  • It's up to us to be resilient and take care of ourselves
  • Be fully present and confident that you can do your job and make a difference

Mindfulness Courses

"It all comes down to treating each other as you would want to be treated.” Dr Fontaine has developed several mindfulness courses at UVA which are "packed.” During her tenure at UVA she was instrumental in introducing many avenues to nursing as a career. The Clinical Nurse Leader program is ranked third in the nation as a fast-track for students from outside of nursing to become nurses. The program has nearly tripled in size since its inception in 2005. She also helped to develop a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program in 2017. More recently, Dr. Fontaine oversaw the development of a palliative care program at the graduate level. As she has expanded the programs being offered at UVA, she has hired more than 60 faculty, many outside the field of nursing to add diversity to the staff.

Resilience Garden

As a direct result of her many years of work with the Compassionate Care Initiative, her colleagues have honored her with a "Resilience Garden" named in her honor. It will memorialize her life's work as she retires in 2019.

Here is the full interview

How do you incorporate compassionate care during your shift with your colleagues?


38,333 Posts

Too bad this remarkable lady is retiring. She is needed in most nursing schools around the nation.


tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN

83 Articles; 5,923 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.
41 minutes ago, caliotter3 said:

Too bad this remarkable lady is retiring. She is needed in most nursing schools around the nation.

I agree! It was an honor to interview her.


1 Post

Wow!!! Incredible. I wrote a book and released it on Amazon back in April this year called "The Cookbook for a Compassionate Nurse" speaking about all this and more! I love how this confirms how important it is to have the "right ingredients" taught and instilled within each nurse and nurse-to-be in order to see the change healthcare NEEDS! ❤

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

88 Articles; 21,248 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

As I was helping with the interview you could tell that she really believes and loves what she does. Remarkable woman.

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