Building a Culture of Safety Through Concepts of Compassion, Empathy, and Caring

How the Phenomenon Impacts Healthcare Delivery

Healthcare organizations around the world have made the emphasis on the patient safety concept. It has led to the building of a culture of safety. According to Santo, Pohl, Saiani, and Battistelli, this culture has quite complex nature, just as its development process. It can be attributed to the fact that building of this culture entails identifying of the necessary values, attitudes, competencies, and appropriate patterns of behavior that may be used. The concepts of compassion, empathy, and caring represent several necessary healthcare attributes that are important for building of a culture of safety, which might considerably impact healthcare delivery in a number of ways. First, they will be essential in enhancing of the quality of health services. The reason is that provision of care with kind, patient, and humane face to patients, which the compassion, empathy, and caring instigate, is effective in collecting sufficient information with regard to person’s health status. In addition, it improves communication between the healthcare provider and patient as Jeffrey states. This fact is critical in further improving of healthcare delivery quality. Building of a culture of safety also seeks to eliminate medical errors and hospital associated infections. It is essential to note that compassion and empathy allow the healthcare professionals to develop their sensitivity and, thus, become more committed to the patient’s well-being priority. The impact of this phenomenon on the healthcare delivery is increasing. In this sense, compassion, empathy, and caring are the elements, which are able to enhance the speed of the healthcare delivery process. It is a consequence of intensifying cooperation between healthcare providers and patients. Therefore, a culture of safety developed with the help of compassion, empathy, and caring facilitates the improvement of healthcare delivery and enhances its quality. 


How the Phenomenon Impacts Nursing Care

Building a culture of safety through the concepts of compassion, empathy, and caring is a phenomenon that also impacts nursing care since it is a profession, which handles the healthcare of patients directly. Tanco conclude that the impact of this fact can be noticed once nurses start developing these three elements and making them part of their daily work routine. A newly adopted attitude contributes to the protection of the well-being of patients. American Nurses Association (ANA) espouses the view that when a nurse develops the attitude connected with compassion, empathy, and caring to people in her work, this work becomes more than just a process of providing medical services to a patient with the intent of completing assigned task. Instead, it becomes more humane and strengthens the connection with patients. Thus, their well-being and safety are ensured. In addition, the impact of this phenomenon can be seen in the fact that it helps to increase the effectiveness of nursing care. The reason is that compassion, empathy, and caring allow a nurse to outreach her call of duty in treating patients. Clarke observe that these factors make them effective caregivers, and, as a result, the nursing care becomes more efficient as well. This phenomenon also has impact on patients’ recovery outcomes by improving them. It is possible due the fact that there is tight relation between compassion, empathy, and caring and the physiological status of a patient. It means that they can easily impact the health of the person and, consequently, his/her well-being as Tanco assert. To summarize, the overall impact of the phenomenon of building a culture of safety through the concepts of compassion, empathy, and caring provides much improved, enhanced, and effective nursing care process in general. 

Literature Review

Building a culture of safety in nursing care is a topic of interest of many scholars and researchers. Consequently, various studies in this sphere have been conducted. Nevertheless, the number of works related to building of this culture through the use of compassion, empathy, and caring is limited. The following review of the literature covers several existing studies investigating this phenomenon. It explores the literature on the culture of safety, the elements of compassion, empathy, and caring, and how they can be used to build this culture.

A culture of safety in patient care sphere entails healthcare specialists working to achieve particular change that will result in the well-being of patients they cater for. Findings of Clarke reveal that the mentioned culture pushes workers to act whenever it is needed since inaction is considered to be the face of safety problems in healthcare. Cultivation of such a culture makes it possible for a healthcare organization to have members who will readily report any adverse events and prevent unsafe conditions for patients. Santo state that building of this culture is essential due to the fact that lack of safety in healthcare leads to the loss of many lives. For instance, medical errors, which represent a lack of care in healthcare workers’ activity, lead to deaths a large number of people. This figure implies that the lack of compassion and empathy in care provision is detrimental to the overall wellbeing of patients.

According to Tanco, the state of optimal effectiveness in clinical medicine requires every healthcare professional without exception to be technically qualified and practice developing compassion and care. The North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) shares the same notion, which affirms that while the technical advances in medicine are beneficial to patients, it is critical to protect them from suffering the indignity of having a technically competent but uncaring healthcare professional regardless of whether it is a doctor, nurse, or other staff member. Consequently, the appropriate medical practice is a phenomenon that involves a combination of technical knowledges with the element of humanism. The last is also known as healthcare worker’s interest and respect for a patient. Tanco consider it critical since too many clients of hospitals are subjected to the dehumanizing and impersonal treatment. This problem became so significant that it has provoked the emergence of crisis within the healthcare system. Consequently, this crisis has become destructive not only to patients but also to their families and healthcare professionals themselves. The destruction mentioned above comes from the fact that patient safety due to the impersonal and dehumanizing care is a disregarded issue. 

The elements of compassion, empathy, and caring are vital qualities for facilitating the delivery of optimal medical treatment to patients. According to Tanco, it can be explained by the fact that they constitute a form of universal wisdom in medical ethics. In the absence of these elements, patients become dissatisfied and untrusting regarding the care they receive. When healthcare integrates the qualities mentioned above, it can be named both a science and an art. Jeffrey explains it as the care of people while there is also the application of scientific knowledge on hand. It is, on the other hand, the art of remaining attentive and fully available to the patients. All these factors facilitate their well-being, security, and adherence to the process of healing. These three qualities, thus, add much to the process of medical care. Clarke observe, for instance, that empathy has the ability to join an element of strength to the response of patients to the process of care as well as provide them with the deeper awareness of the concrete reality they experience during illness. If care is afforded in a dehumanizing manner, the patients feel like they are only known by their conditions, not for who they really are. 

In their study, Santo investigate how the compassion can be used to enhance the quality of healthcare provided to patients and, thus, improve their safety. In this regard, compassion is able to assist in the prevention of health problems as well as fasten the recovery process. It is possible due to the fact that it can be used to improve the staff efficiency, namely, the cooperation between patients and healthcare professionals as well as individuals and teams. In comparison, Jeffrey, when discussing the same concept, asserts that compassion can only be used to enhance patient’s safety if the environment where the healthcare workers operate is structured so that it can support this element. It is attributed to the fact that compassion is shaped and heavily influenced by the environment and the healthcare system. This fact can explain why some nurses are unable to ensure the safety of patients: it is a consequence of lack of compassion. NCNA, on the other hand, links it to the notion that good people tend to do terrible things when they are exposed to the toxic environment. 

In addition, the researchers continue to note that patients’ safety can be enhanced by increased compassion, empathy, and care. Clarke postulate that healthcare professionals who are more compassionate in their work tend to encourage much greater disclosure of patients’ concerns, feelings, and symptoms. In this sense, it is about building trust between the caregivers and patients. Consequently, it leads to the creation of a culture of safety in this sphere. 

Compassion, empathy, and caring continue to be fundamental elements in the enhancement of the safety of patients. The NCNA opines that the element of a caring in healthcare professionals’ work goes a long way in assisting patients to feel much calmer. In addition, it also provides them with kind of assurance that the specialists attending them are doing all they can to make them feel well. Such belief is how these three elements contribute to building a culture of safety. By doing all that is possible during the period of care of a patient, a healthcare worker protects him/her from all the possible dangers that can be anticipated. The patient’s safety is further enhanced with the help of these three elements, and, thus, it leads to better health outcomes. Santo reiterate the results of the study that was conducted on the topic of humanizing healthcare delivery and opine that patients participating in the study who were soothed by their nurses and encouraged to imagine that they were in a much better situation responded remarkably well to their treatment. Jeffrey also asserts that compassionate care, which can be realized in a form of attentive listening, has the capacity to create so-called healing relationship with patients. It goes a long way in enhancing their health safety by fostering the improvement of diagnostic clarity, patients’ treatment outcomes, and their adherence to difficult treatment process. The absence of these factors tends to lead to more difficult and stressful situations that have the potential of worsening patients’ conditions and pose danger to their wellbeing. 

The other studies analyze the impact of absence of the elements of compassion, empathy, and caring and how it can place the safety of a patient in danger. One of the aspects that are investigated is the compassion fatigue as studied by Jeffrey. It makes reference to the reduced ability to tolerate significantly strong emotions in patients, their families, and even colleagues. It usually occurs when staff becomes unable to take time off work in order to regenerate its own emotions. The healthcare worker becomes unable to be emotionally detached. It can be attributed to the fact that a worker is undergoing an intense experience or it may simply be a part of his/her personality. In contrast, Tanco underlines a positive impact of emotional fatigue when maintained within a given limit. In this sense, the detachment that comes with it allows objective perspective development, which is critical for a healthcare professional. However, it tends to lead to a poor safety culture in a healthcare organization since the staff pays very little regard to the well-being of the patients.

Additionally, the burnout is another factor that can easily lead to the attitudes of compassion, empathy, and caring to be extinguished in healthcare specialists’ personalities. Jeffrey defines burnout as emotional exhaustion that reduces one’s sense of accomplishment and depersonalizes him/her. Usually, it is closely related to the personal characteristics, attitude, and organizational culture. This phenomenon is more likely to occur as a result of significantly heavy work and limited organizational support to the workers. It impacts the safety of patients directly. Jeffrey states that when staff becomes extremely exhausted after experiencing burnout, it is less likely to provide the best care to the sick people. This exhaustion can easily cause them to overlook certain critical elements of the care standards, which may threaten the safety of patients. It means that the burnouts that the staff suffers undermine the process of building a culture of safety since it prevents the development of compassion, empathy, and caring within healthcare professionals’ activity. 

Tanco note that secondary traumatic stress is a specific problem that prevents healthcare workers from treating their patients in a compassionate and empathic way. This kind of trauma, which has the similar characteristics with post-traumatic stress disorder, can occur when staff is exposed to a number of traumatic experiences by patients. It is more likely for the members of staff who are dealing with patients in the emergency room and ICU. This trauma makes some of them lose their ability to connect with patients with the help of empathy and caring spirit. Consequently, such people are less likely to anticipate the healthcare needs of patients endangering their lives. In this sense, it is apparent that compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress along with their roles in inhibiting of the development of compassion, empathy, and caring spirit in staff also subsequently prevent the building of a culture of safety in healthcare system. 

Continuing to analyze this aspect, there is a growing concern that the significant elements of healthcare are lacking. For example, there has been a shortage of personalization in this sphere. The NCNA reiterates it and affirms that contemporary healthcare professionals treat their work more like finishing tasks rather than providing care. It is more common among nurse practitioners. While it can be attributed to the never-ending problem of the shortage of nurses number, it is unfortunate that the problem has worsened to the point of patient safety becoming compromised. Clarke, on the other hand, observes that the lack of fundamental elements of healthcare such as compassion and empathy has caused poor patients’ experience, poor clinical and emotional outcomes in various situations. Jeffrey presents different stories of individuals who have received insufficient care and were exposed to the unsafe environment due to negligent care and abuse of the staff. Santo also analyzes the aspect of lack of the empathy in the care of older patients and the ones suffering from mental disorders and how it has made them to become in danger of developing health associated infections and experiencing falls. 

Conclusion of the Literature Review

From the above information concerning the phenomenon of building a culture of safety through the concepts of compassion, empathy, and caring gathered, certain determination can be made about the evidence mentioned above. Moving forward, this conclusion of the literature review as related to the determination made can be used to reveal what needs to be investigated in both the present and future. From the information mentioned in the conducted literature review, it is evident that patient safety is still lacking when it comes to the healthcare system. The continuous research in this field shows that gaps in guaranteeing patient complete safety still remain. Despite this subject being a significant point of concern for researchers, there has been limited information in regard to the use of a humane approach as an instrument of developing it. In this sense, in the building of a culture of safety, many healthcare organizations has paid much more attention to the hazards found within patients’ environment and has completely disregarded the risks, which the healthcare professionals’ activity carries. This topic is one of the main aims of studies that analyze the humanistic approach to healthcare as a way of enhancing patients’ safety and, in relation to this paper, a way of building a culture of safety. The evidence gathered confirmed the humanistic approach of care as a way of facilitating patient safety using compassion, empathy, and caring. 

Furthermore, judging from the information gathered in the literature review, it can be determined that being an efficient healthcare professional means more than just having technical qualifications. Instead, an efficient healthcare specialist is perceived as someone who is able to combine his/her technical skills with the sense of humanism. Nevertheless, there is no great emphasis on this fact in healthcare organizations systems. Various reports and statistics concerning patients’ suffering from the hands of the healthcare workers have become common. It is further confirmed by the rise in hospital associated infections rate that has led to the increase of hospital stays and readmissions. It also shows that caring for patients has become more about making money for healthcare organizations and finishing work for healthcare professionals. The inability to reconcile qualifications with humanism through the development of compassion, empathy, and caring attitude means that patient safety is no longer a primary point of concern. It can be determined from the gathered evidence that building of a culture of safety is a new phenomenon to many healthcare facilities. This claim is supported by the research’s assertion that the humanistic approach to healthcare is lacking in many organizations working in this sphere. 

Performance Improvement Concern

Connecting the above literature with own current area of practice in healthcare, it is evident that there arises a performance improvement concern. Anyone working in healthcare industry faces day-to-day challenges that can make him/her to forget that the patient is the main point of concern as Tanco affirm in their study. Certain challenges have the ability to provoke stress making it difficult for the healthcare worker to maintain the connection with his/her patients. It is common for healthcare specialists to change the overwhelming nature of their work. For instance, the problem of nurse shortage has been a prolonged one. It has made many nurses to become overworked. Actually, it occurs because the specialists are focused on the finishing of chores instead of providing adequate care to the patients. Consequently, the last becomes dehumanizing and impersonal. It is a single point that illustrates an urgent need for performance improvement in healthcare workers’ operating. 

Accordingly, it is clear that healthcare delivery is more than just giving medicines to the sick people. Instead, the treatment process must be accompanied by a humanistic approach that is significant in enhancing the patients’ recovery progress. Additionally, from the literature review, it is apparent that patient treatment and recovery begins with the creation of safe environment. According to Clarke, it is the significance of building a culture of safety and integrating it in the healthcare system. Further, building of this culture outreaches reinforcing of the physical well-being of the patient by attending to his/her direct environment. In reality, safety surpasses the physical side of treatment and includes psychological well-being. According to the NCNA, the process of patient’s healing starts in the mind before moving to the body. Consequently, the performance improvement concern is in relation to enhancing the safety of patients by applying more compassion, empathy, and caring while delivering healthcare services. This humanistic approach to care will enhance efficiency, productivity, and overall performance productivity. 

Therefore, the aspect that needs to be investigated in the future is the determining to what extent the compassion, empathy, and caring are able to build a culture of safety. In addition, another question to answer is whether the absence of the elements mentioned above makes significant difference in the quality of care that is provided to patients. At the same time, it should be researched whether this absence inhibits the development of a culture of safety within healthcare organizations. These are essential points of concern as determined from the literature review. Moreover, it insinuates that a considerable gap in the field of application of the humanistic approach to the development of the safety of patients still exists.

Order now

Related essays