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Compassion in nursing and its importance in end-of-life care
  1. Vicky Robinson, Consultant Editor, End of Life Care, and Consultant Nurse in Palliative Care
  1. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London

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Nursing is skilled compassion. Without compassion, one cannot nurse. In essence, compassion is sympathetic and empathetic pity and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others. Many people confuse sympathy and empathy, using the terms interchangeably. However, they are quite different and it is really important that the difference is understood. Sympathy, as part of compassion, means to have common feelings with those who are suffering. Empathy, as part of compassion, is the ability to share the suffering of others without necessarily sharing common feelings. To empathise involves seeking to understand how a patient feels, given their experiences and situation. Empathy is an incredibly selfless skill.

Without compassion one can look like a nurse, be fully conversant in nursing theory, recite clinical guidelines verbatim and ooze technical expertise by attending courses, which enable one to cannulate, prescribe and resuscitate, ad infinitum. However, the nurse who has …

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