Swansea Lecturer takes part in Lively Debate on Compassionate Nursing

Professor Gary Rolfe, a Professor of Nursing at Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences has taken part in a lively debate about compassionate nursing at the University of Worcester’s Compassion in Nursing Conference.

Professor Rolfe and John Paley, both accomplished writers in healthcare, presented their views at the conference, which explored whether the episodes of poor care described at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and elsewhere are as a result of a deficit of compassion in nursing or the result of stresses nurses working in an unforgiving environment.

In a recent exchange of articles in the academic press, John Paley, Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Health and Social Care Research at Sheffield Hallam University, and Professor Gary Rolfe, of the College of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University, have taken different views. Drawing on evidence from social psychology, Mr Paley argues that poor care can be largely explained by the situation that nurses find themselves in. In response, Professor Rolfe claims that there is indeed a deficit in compassion which is best addressed through enhanced education.

The 2013 report into appalling care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust recommended that the Nursing and Midwifery Council work with universities to develop a test that would assess would-be nursing students’ compassion.

During the debate John Paley said that the emphasis on recruiting nurses and students for compassion in the report is misguided and misconceived, stating that a lack of compassion was predominantly a response to working in a difficult environment rather than an individual’s values.

But former mental health nurse, Professor Gary Rolfe, said it was vitally important that the nursing profession should not be seen to be ‘excusing or rationalising’ the ‘appalling behaviour’ of a small minority of people.

‘Nurses at Mid Staffs chose to ignore patients in distress rather than failed to notice they were in distress,’ he said. ‘Paley would have us believe that otherwise compassionate nurses walked past patients suffering time after time without noticing that they needed help,’ added Professor Rolfe.