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What Is The Impact Of Showing Empathy In Nursing Practice?

1602 words - 7 pages

Studies have suggested that empathetic nursing may positively affect the quality of nursing care, contributing to more positive outcomes in regards to the health and well-being of patients, in various degrees of ill health. Hojat (2007); Mercer & Reynolds, 2002, Raudonis, 1993). In contrast, Slaby (2014) believes that empathy has a ‘blind spot’ of imposing only the personal perspectives and life experiences of that nurse onto the patient, this therefore may lead to assumptions which could prove demeaning and incorrect. Raudonis (1993) research contradicts Slabys viewpoint, and notes in his qualitative study of 14 terminally-ill patients (in a hospice environment), that empathetic care resulted in better pain management, higher morale, and improved quality of life as well as an impression of being better acknowledged, accepted and cared for. This disproves Slaby’s (2014) point of view as Slaby implied that empathy was presumptuously driven, individualistic and selfish, and so discounted empathy as being driven by genuine concern for the patient. Slaby’s (2014) viewpoint is further disproved by Shaw, Haxell and Weblemoe (2012) who state that while the value of empathy is individually perceived, the perception of treatment as an individual rarely alters (Shaw, Haxell, & Weblemoe, 2012). Raudonis’s qualitative approach, while valid, has some weaknesses. For example it is somewhat outdated, but was utilised due to there being a limited number of qualitative studies on this topic. A possible limitation in the study, however, is that the patients assessed were receiving hospice care, which often provides a more personal approach than in a hospital ward (Lunt & Neale, 1987). The participants of the study, were mostly female cancer patients, restricting potential findings in varying illnesses or gender outlook. Moreover the final data collections were left uncompleted in 12 of the 14 participants, resulting in fragmented results on an already small sample group. On balance, however, it is clear from the consensus of Hojat (2007), Mercer and Reynolds (2002), Raudonis (1993), and Lunt and Neale (1987) that empathetic nursing may positively impact patient care.
Many, if not the majority of patients in hospital care experience physical discomfort and emotional distress, and this can manifest itself in emotional outbursts. (Herbette & Rime, 2004). Nurses may positively impact situations such as these by exhibiting an empathetic and professional approach (Balzer-Riley, 2000). This may provide enhanced communication, and greater trust with the patients. Which could result in improved treatment planning, that greater benefit patient care. (Bruns & Frewer, 2011). However, according to Lombardo and Eyre (2011) this positive impact comes at a price, namely compassion fatigue in nursing staff, triggered by an over emotional attachment to patient experiences, resulting in a nurses ‘burn out’. This was illustrated by Lombardo and Eyre in a case study, of a nurse who...

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