Margaret Vick & Gudrun Dannenfeldt

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407 – A measure of compassion in healthcare students

Introduction and Background

The aim of this research was to measure whether students in health specific professions had compassionate attributes at the beginning of their course of study. The significance of compassion cannot be underestimated as a core attribute in healthcare, as highlighted in recent research from a number of different disciplines (Bramley & Matti, 2014; Hall, 2013; Radley & Figley, 2007). The word ‘compassion’ is rarely mentioned in health policy documents or professional competency guidelines in New Zealand. With an aging population and increasing demands in the healthcare workforce (National Nursing Organisation, 2014) attracting and retaining students who show compassion to work in the health professions is increasingly important. The health educators researching this topic, were interested in finding out whether compassionate attributes can be developed and retained in students studying health and social practice at undergraduate level. In order to measure whether these students had compassionate attributes, we used a self-administered ‘Compassion to Others’ psychometric scale (Pommier, 2010). A total of 174 students, enrolled in the first semester of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) in Hamilton, participated. An analysis of the data collected suggested students began study with compassionate attributes. Demographic data was collected in the areas of gender, ethnicity and age, however, because of the numbers involved, not all results were statistically significant. In 2017 we are continuing to follow this cohort on a longitudinal basis, to study whether compassion is being maintained or enhanced during the period of their education.

Key words: nursing students and compassion