The butterfly effect of caring - clinical nursing teachers' understanding of self-compassion as a source to compassionate care

Scand J Caring Sci. 2013 Mar;27(1):175-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2012.01033.x. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


This study has its roots in a clinical application project, focusing on the development of a teaching-learning model enabling participants to understand compassion. During that project four clinical nursing teachers met for a total of 12 hours of experiential and reflective work. This study aimed at exploring participants' understanding of self-compassion as a source to compassionate care. It was carried out as a phenomenological and hermeneutic interpretation of participants' written and oral reflections on the topic. Data were interpreted in the light of Watson's Theory of Human Caring. Five themes were identified: Being there, with self and others; respect for human vulnerability; being nonjudgmental; giving voice to things needed to be said and heard; and being able to accept the gift of compassion from others. A main metaphorical theme, 'the Butterfly effect of Caring', was identified, addressing interdependency and the ethics of the face and hand when caring for Other - the ethical stance where the Other's vulnerable face elicits a call for compassionate actions. The findings reveal that the development of a compassionate self and the ability to be sensitive, nonjudgmental and respectful towards oneself contributes to a compassionate approach towards others. It is concluded that compassionate care is not only something the caregiver does, nor is compassion reduced to a way of being with another person or a feeling. Rather, it is a way of becoming and belonging together with another person where both are mutually engaged and where the caregiver compassionately is able to acknowledge both self and Other's vulnerability and dignity.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing
  • Empathy*
  • Faculty, Nursing*
  • Humans