Defining compassion


My name is Alison Kilduff. I’m a
senior lecturer in mental health nursing and also the award leader for mental
health nursing at the University of Derby and I work mainly on
pre-registration nursing which is BSc honours in nursing in the adult and mental health field. Compassion is so hard to define. I think, we teach compassion and
there’s a debate about whether compassion is nature or nurture and we
do meet people who are intrinsically kind and we tend to think they’re
compassionate because compassion is about human kindness and humanity being kind to humanity. In nursing it has a slightly different focus in its related
to dignity and respect and warmth and being aware and empathic towards someone
else’s suffering. In dementia it’s particularly important that we’re
compassionate because for people who live with a diagnosis of dementia, once
they have that diagnosis people just see the diagnosis and they forget that
there’s a person living with that diagnosis and dementia affects every
part of our being and every part of the way that we live our lives but actually
when we take that extra bit of care we can really understand the person and
really walk alongside them in the true way and help them manage and adjust to
the symptoms that they’re experiencing so for example compassionate mind
therapy can be really really helpful if we understand why people are exhibiting
certain behaviours which we call challenging behaviour but actually it’s
us that’s challenged by the behaviour because we’re just not recognizing that
the behavior is a way of communicating so for example if we’re working with
someone who used to be a carpenter we can explain by just showing them a piece
of wood how dementia can affect the brain by the tangles in the dementia it
stops the messages getting through and if we can explain to them, “That’s what your brains like at the moment. Those little knots and those little bits” if we can
just help you understand by being kind to you that sometimes your brain gets a
little bit tangled little bit stressed and we can help
scaffold some of those ideas by saying “Take time take five just accept that
your brains not working as well as it can do but it can work much better than
this at other times” and just recognise it if you just take a minute and take a
breath that the thought or the memory that you’re trying to get is there for
you. Compassion is important to me because it infiltrates every single
thing that I teach. All nurses need to be compassionate and the reason
it’s so important particularly in nursing at the moment is because therer has been so much bad press for nurses when we think about recent reports that have
happened in this country about people who are very vulnerable not receiving
care that we would like our families to receive we have to be really mindful of
that and be thinking about how we can help nurses of the future develop skills
that are related to compassion, empathy, warmth and kindness. And we do know that
when people who have a diagnosis of dementia are admitted to hospital they are three times more likely to die there, they’re much more likely to be
readmitted and their outcomes are so much worse for their counterparts who
are the same age. So when people are on a particularly say a medical ward or a
surgical ward it can be quite problematic looking after someone who
has a diagnosis of dementia if they’re confused, their confusion will get
worse in an environment that they are unfamiliar with and and not that long ago
I was working with an adult student nurse who is having some real sort of
issues and we were spending some time in supervision thinking about how she could
manage her feelings regarding a patient that was causing some concerns amongst
the nursing staff because this patient had actually she would undress herself
and take her top off and then she would pick up a teddy bear and start
breastfeeding this bear and the sister on the ward found it very very difficult
and she found it very she thought the patient was being difficult and and
and actually the the outcome for that patient was that she got moved into a
side ward which actually made that that patient more distressed and more
confused and of course it didn’t stop the behavior at all so one of the things
that we tried to do was to have a look at the behavior within the context of
that that lady and so I got the the student nurse to actually talk to her
family who came to visit her and they explained that actually and the last
time she was in hospital one of the times that she was in the hospital was
when she actually lost her last baby their sibling and when we put that into
context we could understand that she was actually back in that place and she was
nursing the baby that had died when this part of her history was shared with the
nursing staff immediately everybody became more empathic towards her and more compassionate towards her so of course she was moved out of the side room and
back into the ward and the consequence being that people paid her more attention
but it was actually more kind attention and just by being more compassionate she
was able to recover much more quickly and get back home you

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