1. I was having an interesting conversation the other day with a nurse friend. Let me pose this question to everyone:

    Is compassion required to be a good nurse?

    Can an uncompassionate person be a good nurse?

    What are your thoughts?
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    About Buckaroo93

    Joined: Jun '11; Posts: 23; Likes: 6


  3. by   Double-Helix
    Yes, some degree of compassion is required, but you don't have to be over the top, filled with compassion for every living creature, etc.

    Compassion is needed to positively interact with other people in any line of work. You have to be able to recognize their needs and care about meeting them. A total lack of compassion pretty much guarantees you will come off as heartless and uncaring.

    Compassion isn't a personality trait that you either have or your don't. You aren't 100% compassionate or 0% compassionate. Compassion, just like most personality traits, exists on a spectrum. It's different for each person. No one is completely devoid of all compassion. Unless you're a sociopath or something.

    Some people might have more compassion than others, but there isn't some magical amount of compassion that makes you a good nurse. A lot of other factors go into determining if you will be a competent nurse. A super compassionate person might be an ineffective nurse if they lack other skills and traits.
    Last edit by Double-Helix on Apr 21, '12
  4. by   kakamegamama
    Sure, an uncompassionate person can be a good nurse, from the technical/critical thinking standpoint. However, it would be kinda tough, I would think, to have no compassion and be a nurse. As the other poster said, there are different degrees of compassion. I don't think anyone could be a nurse without compassion at all, otherwise, why bother? It takes a little at least to "feel" for the other person, so to speak and to try to at least make things a bit better within the confines of what we can do to make that happen.
  5. by   BelgianRN
    I find my compassion varies greatly among different patients and their pathology and their behaviour. And sometimes it is outside the scope of their influence and I'm just having a bad day where I'm less compassionate than on another day. I think the trick is to recognize when you don't have compassion to spare and adjust your work accordingly.

    E.g. when I'm having a bad day I'll try and take only vented and sedated patients. Putting me on a confused patient that is having an anxiety attack is like oil and fire we don't mix well that day. Luckily there is usually a shoe to fit to everyone's mood in our department and we change patients around on a (bi)daily basis if they're not a good fit for you.
    When I feel it's a good day I might take the complaining woman in room 1 that likes to push her call sign every minute for one request more absurd than the other.

    We have this one nurse in our department and she is overly compassionate for her patients and I honestly feel they aren't getting proper care. She uses the entire range of excuses. "I didn't put patient X in a chair because I think he can use the rest." "I didn't wean patient Y from the vent because he is feeling upset in his stomach." "I let him sleep all morning because he was so anxious all night he can use the extra sleep." "Oh the family of patient Z is going to spend all evening in with her because she doesn't speak proper dutch and can't understand us." (Right after you have heard from about every nurse for the last few days that they had fights with the family over proper visitation hours and rules to abide when visiting)
  6. by   GitanoRN
    a non-compassionate nurse can deliver nursing care, however, the patient is able to distinguish the lack of compassion from one nurse to another. having said that, the idea of compassion has played an important role in nursing as well as medicine, and it has been a hospital tradition from the beginning of healthcare. moreover, the nurse’s moral responsibility to care for the sick is determined by the individual’s helplessness, vulnerability and suffering. furthermore, the compassion trait can vary from individual to individual. pursuing this further, a non-compassionate nurse is a nurse who sees nursing as their job, while a compassionate nurse sees nursing as a calling. therefore, in my book one has to have some trait of compassion in order to deliver the highest caliber of patient care.
  7. by   BostonTerrierLoverRN
    I have heard, "They don't care how much you know, . . .Until they know how much you care."

    That said you, you have to be careful with your spiritual health. You walk in one room and they are celebrating because everything is better and they are going home. Then you walk into the next and the mood is totally different where their waiting on the woman who held their family together like glue is now passing, It is a rollercoaster- you have to "fake" it sometimes. If you truly get emotionally involved with every devastating diagnosis, patient's financial situations, homeless patient's with severe needs being d/c'd out front door, and still births- you'd have nothing left for your family and friends.

    I have seen many Nurses without ONE OUNCE of empathy, compassion, or for that matter- any emotion. And, the one I am thinking of right now, ex-army nurse- was one of the strongest, most competent, and conscientious nurses I have ever worked with. She was always straight to the point, firm, and when she connected- it was "100% FuFu free." Yet, there were patient's who really loved her. It also meant alot when she "DID" show emotion- you knew it was REAL.

    YES! You can be a "NON" compassionate Nurse- and an AWESOME Nurse. But, when you see a family needing support- grab one of the ones that ooze sweetness, and kindness- they love that stuff anyway- and trade tasks with them, . . . .or just fake it realistically!

    Good Luck!!
  8. by   LynnLRN
    I feel like most of the very good and efficient nurses are not the MOST compassionate, not to say they have no compassion. However, most of the time that I hear patients complain about a nurse seeming like they do not enjoy their job they are usually talking about the ones who are not very compassionate. So I think from a patient perspective it is probably important to be compassionate, but as far as doing a good job and getting out of work on time and all the things that employers like I feel like the less compassionate nurses excel. I think you need a good mix of both. You need to be able to leave the patient room and get other things done but you also need to know when to sit down and listen for a minute.
  9. by   silentRN
    The longer you are a nurse, the less compassionate you will be. We all get burned out, and we are only human. You don't need compassion to do the job, but you need to have common sense and be smart enough to do the job. You don't need to be compassionate to know that a patient needs pain meds or that a patient needs to be turned or that a levophed gtts needs to be started. Nursing education is kinda a joke, which emphasizes on caring and compassion; because it doesn't teach you real world application and you learn how to think once you have a job.
  10. by   not.done.yet
    Compassion has a lot of different looks to it. In one situation it may be an emotional sympathy. In another, it may be the firm drawing of boundaries. I very often push back from what the definition of "compassion" seems to be on this board. A lot of people post here wanting compassion in the form of platitudes, false reassurances and pretty little lies. I find dealing with things in a truthful way to be the most compassionate means of interacting. I find a lot of patients and families are the same in terms of wanting pretty reassurances that don't necessary deal with reality. So sometimes my form of "compassion" is not appreciated and I have to act in a way that seems compassionate to them but feels very wrong to me.
    Last edit by not.done.yet on Apr 22, '12
  11. by   OnlybyHisgraceRN
    This have been discussed dozens of times on AN. My opinion is that compassion IS needed to be a great nurse.
  12. by   Wild Irish LPN
    Quote from OnlybyHisgraceRN
    This have been discussed dozens of times on AN. My opinion is that compassion IS needed to be a great nurse.
    I agree...compassion for others had to be the driving force to become a nurse in the first place right?, isn't that what nursing is truly about?....I can understand not getting to intimate with our patients and we need clear boundries, however the option of just being "clinical" or cold should signal a problem....just a thought....
  13. by   nurseprnRN
    with the exception of one post, i read all these answers as if "compassion" were an on-off, either-you-have-it-or-you-don't thing.

    there are plenty of days where i must and can put myself in aspergerian mode, bull through all i have to do, and damn the torpedos. there are also plenty of days where i say good-bye to someone and then go out in my car to weep because i feel their pain so strongly. and all stops in between.

    nurses are not angels, are not saints, are not selfless do-gooders who think only of their patients. if you try to be like that, you will find yourself in a world of hurt. you are also responsible for yourself; if you do not figure out (with help prn) how to establish some professional boundaries between your patients and your psyche, you will be headed for some very hard times indeed.

    you will find yourself unable to care for anyone if you lose sight of how to care for yourself. do not delude yourself into thinking that you are such a special snowflake, with maturity beyond your years or some other such balderdash, that this will not happen to you. it will. and then you will find yourself on an some fine day, writing.... this.

    take care.
  14. by   mystory
    Quote from buckaroo93
    i was having an interesting conversation the other day with a nurse friend. let me pose this question to everyone:

    is compassion required to be a good nurse?

    no. i do not believe compassion is required to be a good nurse. nursing is like any other job, we are being compensated via pay (and possibly benefits) for the service we provide. our service just happens to entail avocating for our patients' safety and best plan of care, listening and validating the patient, and other responsibilities that reflect compassion, but do not necessitate genuine feelings of compassion. as a psych nurse and psych np student, i can tell you that i have had many effective therapeutic conversations with patients whom i did not feel compassion towards and whom i did not care about once i clocked out for the shift.

    can an uncompassionate person be a good nurse?

    yes. if one safely and competently fulfills the responsibilities required of nurses. if one is excellent with knowledge and skills but does not assess or provide for a patient's emotional needs, s/he is not a good nurse, as our responsibilities and job description exceeds physiology.

    what are your thoughts?
    just my opinion..thanks for the interesting discussion.