There is much written in the media, on a regular basis, about the compassion that is shown to patients, clients and service users by health care professionals. It is allegedly in short supply, which is not easy to accept either for a fellow health professional or for someone on the receiving end of a health carer. The Chief Nurse, Jane Cummings, has recently announced the introduction of the Kate Granger Compassionate Care Award. Details are to follow but, presumably, the intention is to recognise publicly those who demonstrate compassion in their work. It is an indictment that we should even think of such an award, one might posit.
So, if it is true, why is compassion decreasing? For too many people, working in the health sector is like being in a pressure cooker. Pressure to deliver better service with decreasing resources; pressure to “feed the beast” with mountains of paperwork; pressure to deliver endless audits which give the quantitative picture but too often detract from the quality. When one is working under such sustained stress, it is little wonder that compassion wanes. It can be hard to deal with patients and service users sympathetically when you personally don’t feel heard, understood or cared for. This is not an excuse for poor behaviour, rather a reflection on why the behaviour may exist in the system.
The challenge is to overcome the pressure and reconnect with our passion – our purpose for venturing into health care. What drew the nurse into nursing? The doctor to read medicine? The physiotherapist to their profession? The manager to work in the health sector? When we were idealisitic, what did we hope to achieve? Those childhood thoughts of “wanting to help people”, which then became more clearly defined as we developed, culminating in our career decision. Or, the unarticulated and strongly intuitive “I want to be a ……” from an early age, which eventually came to fruition.
What are you really passionate about, in connection with your profession? If we consciously recall why we do what we do and make it a daily reminder to ourself that a career in health care is much more than turning up to work in order to put bread on the table – extremely important, though that is – it may be easier to reconnect with our compassion. If we can also remind ourself that people on the receiving end of health care are extremely vulnerable and try and imagine how it might be for us if the tables were turned, that may help put our own professional pressures into perspective. Kate Granger describes this eloquently in her book “The Other Side” – a must read for anyone working in health care.
Reconnect with your passion and let your compassion resurface.