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20th February 2015

The Big C – Compassion

plant in female handsHow important is compassion to your patients?

I came across an email this week advertising the General Medical Council (GMC) webinar ‘How important is compassion to your patients?’ Last year the GMC announced a new strapline: ‘Working with doctors, working for patients’, and in support of ‘Experience of Care’ week the GMC will be hosting a webinar on 25th February to discuss what the 6Cs, such as such as courage and compassion, mean for doctors and their patients. It made me think about how empathetic we are as healthcare providers and the effects of being compassionate.

The 6Cs

For those who aren’t already aware 6Cs Live!, set up by NHS England, offers support and encouragement to health and social care staff committed to improving the quality of their service and the experience of their patients, and celebrates their success. 6Cs Live! supports the delivery of the six areas of action defined by the ‘Compassion in Practice’ strategy and vision based on the 6Cs which are:

  • Care
  • Compassion
  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Courage
  • Commitment

Why is compassion important?

Compassion is one of the most important qualities for every healthcare provider. We accept it is our responsibility to put patients first, not to cause harm, to deliver good medical care and to maintain confidentiality. A patient’s relationship with their healthcare provider can be significantly enhanced when compassion is shown and there is also a greater understanding of the effects that illness and injury can have on their behaviour.

When we are compassionate we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person, but this can be difficult depending on the circumstances and our own experiences. Whilst we must remain professional and try to detach ourselves from our own personal feelings it may be difficult sometimes to control our compassion for members of stigmatised social groups, such as homeless individuals and drug addicts.

The effects of being compassionate

We must recognise though that people with a higher capacity or responsibility to empathise with others could become at risk of compassion fatigue or stress, which is often related to professionals and individuals who spend a significant amount of time responding to information related to illness and suffering. It’s not surprising then that healthcare professionals may feel exhausted and stressed because of the responsibility they feel towards their patients. We must be able to recognise when colleagues are seeing a particularly high number of patients who require significant compassion because of their medical needs, and we must have systems in place to support those individuals to avoid or reduce stress at work.


NHS England:
6Cs Live! Experience of Care Week – 23-27th February

NHS England – Introducing 6Cs Live!

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Alison Lowerson

GP Specialist

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