Background: There is increasing emphasis in policy, research and practice on the importance of caring in health care. Indeed there is much debate about how to enhance the caring cultures within which health care is provided. This paper argues that a proper systematic analysis of caring practice that works well in care environments may help us to move towards a realistic model for the future which supports staff, patients and families to give and receive compassionate care.
Aim: The aim of the project was to explore, develop and articulate strategies that enhanced compassionate relationship centred care in an acute hospital setting, caring for older people.
Methods: Appreciative action research informed the development and evaluation of the project. A range of data generation activities were used to examine what worked well. Following detailed analysis key processes emerged as being central to delivery of compassionate care. Specific action projects were implemented and evaluated to enhance these processes necessary for compassionate caring.
Findings: Data from the project helped to articulate the special and often hidden acts that make up compassionate care. In relation to the process of 'knowing who I am and what matters to me' data provided evidence of the value of this process and the potential impact to care. In addition data about the process of doing appreciative action research helped to realise its application and relevance in the health care setting.
Conclusions: Findings from this work suggest that there are a number of significant processes that help people to deliver compassionate care. These need to be articulated, shared more widely across practice, policy and education so that we can build on this excellent practice.
Implications for practice: Appreciative action research adopted in this project is an important methodology to supporting practitioners to identify what it is they do well and develop practice to try to make the best caring practice happen most of the time. Academics, policy makers and practitioners should consider the approach of appreciative action research as key to supporting developments in care.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.