What I learnt this week: The Challenge of Compassion #WILTW

The seventh #WILTW post

Over the last couple of years the concept of  “compassion” has increasingly been discussed in healthcare. This may seem odd – hasn’t healthcare always been compassionate? Unfortunately high profile events at numerous health care institutions have highlighted this may not have always been the case. The drive to remind health care professionals about compassion has been delivered with zest but also some incredulity. The uncertainty surrounding the reasons for obvious failings in human kindness probably the cause of different responses. Regardless of your views it is certainly always useful to reflect on your practice.


I hope I provide compassionate care. I am not sure how I ‘know‘ I do? I suppose feedback on my interactions with patients is rarely, if ever, negative and families tend to thank me when the consultation or treatment has finished. I don’t have definitive evidence of my ‘compassion’ though. This became a relevant point when during a particularly demanding shift, I realised I was having to concentrate on delivering compassionate care. I am not sure how to completely encapsulate what I mean by this but in order to engage children and their families I believe that credibility comes with enthusiasm. You must be keen to interact with children and young people. This interaction is age appropriate of course; but there is a demeanour and body language that is important to gain trust. For some this probably comes very naturally (everyone knows a Patch Adams) but I know I need to adopt almost a paediatric power pose prior to seeing patients. Completely irrespective of your clinical skills it is this compassionate approach to dealing with children and young people which families will remember.

Examination picture


(consent obtained for publication of this photograph)

This became increasingly difficult during the shift. I realised that I was almost resenting the effort it was taking. This is an uncomfortable state of mind to be in, challenging my own internal motivations. I hope none of the patients I saw that evening were affected by this inner tension but it has certainly given me pause for thought.

Today is the 6Cs for Everyone Event (#6CsR4E) a movement highlighting the essentials of quality care for all healthcare professionals. It is also #nhschangeday celebration day. A 12 hour long webex highlighting the powerful pledges made in healthcare communities throughout the world. I discussed my  pledge this year, lying on a spinal board for an hour, something which has clearly influenced my practice in dealing with young children with trauma. What was obvious from the webex was the enthusiasm to deliver the best possible care, all of the time, from all of the speakers and participants. I am reminded this is a necessary but sometimes demanding challenge. I will certainly be mindful of my colleagues in the closing hours of a shift  and encourage them (through a variety of ways,  humour included!) to continue to provide the care that you would want to receive yourself.

What did you learn this week? #WILTW

[The #nhschangeday webex can be joined until 2000 GMT 4/7/14 via this link ]



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