Are Nurses Compassionate Human Beings by Nature?

Nurses Need to be Nurses – compassion is a added bonus sometimes


If you are a nurse, most people expect some level of compassion. I’ve heard this sort of thing more than once. But the public perception of what nursing should be and what nurses actually do; go into two different directions. Because nursing is such a unique profession and is constantly  surrounded by human emotions, compassion is associated with it, and that’s OK.

However, the public has an idea that nurses have compassion as a build in professional skill. Even though some nurses are compassionate by nature. Compassion is not a requirement in nursing.

Compassion is a vague concept and if loosely interpreted might end up evoking feelings of intolerance and prejudice. People understand compassion in their own special ways. Patients see it one way, nurses another and bosses see it in yet a different way. Compassion can get you in trouble, both emotionally, and professionally.

Nursing and compassion walk hand in hand but there is a fine line here. Compassion is not something that is a nursing job description instead is a choice individuals make in their daily and professional lives. The problem is that compassion can be a cover up for demands outside of nurses’ duties. Compassion can even be used for manipulation. First we need to clarify what compassion is.

Is every nurse compassionate? Maybe. Some nurses are not very good at being compassionate. Some others are masters, some are complete jerks so we must have compassion for them. Not everyone is compassionate and that’s perfectly OK. Compassion is a high state of mind which comes from a deep understanding and appreciation of others. Compassion is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoe, and know that everything must be done to alleviate their suffering because you know your own suffering is. It is the ability to know that until everyone is taken care of, the job is not done. It is a high level of responsibility and selflessness – very few are trully copassionate.

The throws of nursing will teach compassion one way or the other. The crisis and intense drama which nurses are exposed on a daily basis will bring every imaginable opportunity to learn about compassion. However at the end of the day, is a personal choice. The public however may have a different vision.

“Nurses are supposed to be compassionate”. This is a recognizable phrases when it comes to what the public thinks. It just comes with the title. No matter what the situation is; nurses are supposed to be compassionate. The public is counting on that; they need a nurse to be compassionate and that’s it. Weather this is true or not, it is an idea most people will not let go of. I used to think the same before I became a nurse.

When introduced to the challenges of becoming a nurse, I started to realize that there is a lot more to a nursing then being compassionate. Not that compassion isn’t important but what the public fails to realize is that compassion is already there, in all nursing activities. Just the fact you can be a nurse shows some compassion. Most often this is not seen because the “Disney” version of compassion prevails (create the Disney version of your like here).

Nurses are at the battle front. They have to make difficult decisions, they are exposed to deadly diseases, lethal viruses and bacteria swimming in body fluids they may come in contact it. They deal with death, heavy emotions. They have to write precise notes which can be used against them in a court of law. They deal with abusive work places, toxic environments where bulling is a common practice. They deal with an increasingly hostile corporate environment obsessed with profits, making things more difficult, threatening to take away benefits, lower salaries and even firing nurses. After all of this, “you should be compassionate”. The public fails to see that compassion is already included and is present in all of the above – what compassion has to do with it.

Asking a nurse to be compassionate is like asking someone who just saved your life why they were not smiling when they did. It can be infuriating. But this can be even more insulting when this idea becomes institutionalized. This is not going the right direction because compassion is a choice and a talent and cannot be demanded from anyone. Bosses use this idea to their advantage, it create an idea that nurses are supposed to do whatever is needed no matter what without limitations. On that premise they should become selfless warriors that should be OK in letting go their benefits, deal with insane patient loads and have their salary reduced; after all they are compassionate and should be able to understand – why should they be angry? And in the end of the day nurses go on and provide the best to people in need, usually without complaining much and after the day is done they have the courage to come back for another day.



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