Sarah Tobin



The subject of compassion is frequently discussed in healthcare literature but despite this, is potentially poorly understood and lacks consensus in definition. This study sought to clarify what exactly is meant by the term compassion in a healthcare context and how this is defined in both the literature and, crucially, by the behaviour and experience of healthcare staff and the experience of service users. In order to establish a definition of compassion the hybrid approach to concept analysis based on the method described by Schwartz-Barcott and Kim (2000) was adopted, this model combines comprehensive literature review with a fieldwork element – in this study stories of compassionate care from the perspective of healthcare workers and from that of service users have been adopted. The literature review was carried out following searches of relevant health related databases and once relevant inclusion and exclusion criteria had been met, the resultant literature (n = 160) was analysed using the evolutionary method detailed by Rodgers (2000). Healthcare staff (n = 23) were recruited and asked to recount a story of when either they or a colleague had behaved in a compassionate way within a healthcare setting. Service users (n = 14) were also recruited and asked to tell their story of when they had experienced compassionate care. The data from both cohorts of study participants was then analysed using a phenomenological approach based on a modified version of the methodology described by Moustakas (1994). The final concept is based on a synthesis of the findings from the literature review with those of the fieldwork elements of the study. Analysis of this data has demonstrated that compassion can be defined, that much that is written about allied subjects can be seen as synonymous and that the antecedent conditions needed to enable compassion can be described. Importantly, for future practice, education and research, compassionate behaviours and attributes have been identified.

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