A constructivist grounded theory study to explore compassion through the perceptions of individuals who have experienced nursing care

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Aim: To explore compassion from the perceptions of individuals with personal experience of nursing care. Background: Although compassion is considered integral to professional nursing, increasing reports of care experiences illustrating a lack of compassion have challenged this. Despite political and professional guidance to reaffirm compassion as an underpinning philosophy of contemporary nursing practice, this provides limited insight into what compassion may involve. Contemporary evidence to inform understanding of compassion predominately arises from the professional perspective. This knowledge gap supported the rationale to explore compassion from the individual perspective. Design: Constructivist grounded theory, underpinned by the theoretical perspectives of symbolic interactionism and social constructionism. Methods: Data were collected via 11 individual interviews, a focus group discussion and three additional individual interviews during 2013–2015. Initial and focused coding, constant comparative analysis, conceptual mapping, theoretical memos and diagrams supported data analysis until theoretical sufficiency was determined. Findings: Inter-related data categories emerged: Self-Propensity for Compassion, Attributes for Compassion, Socialising for Compassion, Conditions for Compassion; and Humanising for Compassion (core category). Conclusion: Compassion is a complex phenomenon, constructed by individuals through their personal experiences of nursing care and life experiences in the social world. In this study, participants perceived that compassion was fundamentally embodied by experiences of a humanising approach to nursing care. These humanising experiences were thought to be influenced by biological, psychological and socio-contextual factors. The study provides additional insight into compassion that requires further investigation with individuals in other care contexts, nurses and healthcare professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1527-1538
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number7
Early online date5 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


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