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.
© 2012 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences © 2012 Nordic College of Caring Science.