Cultivating Compassion through analysis of online patient narratives

Margaret Bennett, Deborah Coleman

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Compassion is at the forefront of national and international healthcare policy, practice and educational debates as a result of a series of recent reports (Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry, 2010, Lown et al 2011, Mannion, 2014). Arguably, this emphasis on compassion is in juxtaposition to an increasingly complex technological healthcare system focused upon outcomes, efficiency, productivity and competence. Within this fast paced and time pressured environment innovative strategies are required to cultivate and sustain compassion among healthcare professionals.

Understanding the person’s experience of illness and making an emotional connection are key processes in cultivating compassion (Dewar, 2013). The exponential growth in unsolicited patient narratives has the potential to provide invaluable insight into what matters to patients and their experience of illness. For many patients these stories ‘reclaim’ their illnesses from the traditional biomedical model of disease and reveal otherwise hidden aspects of their experience. The content though freely accessible, is however unedited and lacks safeguards in relation to the quality or accuracy of the information provided. Despite these concerns, healthcare professionals are now challenged to pay attention to these unsolicited patient stories and to consider how they can inform and improve patient care.

This paper discusses the use of online patient narratives in undergraduate nurse education to cultivate compassion. Critical analysis of online patient narratives is advocated as a potential educational strategy to cultivate compassion among future health care professionals.

Dewar,B. (2013) Cultivating compassionate care Nursing Standard 27, (34) 48-55

Lown B, Rosen J, Martilla J.(2011) An agenda for improving compassionate care: a survey shows about half of patients say such care is missing. Health Affairs (Millwood) 30, 1772–8.
Mannion,R. (2014) Enabling compassionate healthcare: perils, prospects and perspectives International Journal of Health Policy and Management 2, 115-7
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry (2010). Independent Inquiry into care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation London: Stationery Office.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2015
EventePatients: The Medical, Ethical and Legal Repercussions of Blogging and Micro-Blogging Experiences of Illness and Disease Conference - Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Sep 201512 Sep 2015


ConferenceePatients: The Medical, Ethical and Legal Repercussions of Blogging and Micro-Blogging Experiences of Illness and Disease Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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