Learning the requirements for compassionate practice: student vulnerability and courage

Nurs Ethics. 2014 Mar;21(2):210-23. doi: 10.1177/0969733013478307. Epub 2013 Mar 20.


Student nurses' professional development arises through socialisation in nursing knowledge, values and behaviours. Students are expected to demonstrate compassion; however, compassion is a complex concept, one that creates emotional challenges. A grounded theory study was undertaken to explore student nurse socialisation in compassionate practice. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 19 students in the north of England during 2009-2010, and their concerns and concern management emerged. Students expressed several concerns, one being their emotional vulnerability and uncertainty of the emotional requirements for compassionate practice. A core category of 'balancing future intentions' was identified: that students managed feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty through balancing their intentions towards and away from engagement in compassionate practice, depending upon perceived impact on their emotional well-being. The findings are discussed in relation to emotional labour and moral distress, and courage, resilience and self-compassion are explored as a means to enable sustainable compassionate practice.

Keywords: Boundaries; compassion; courage; emotion; student; vulnerability.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Courage*
  • Empathy / ethics*
  • England
  • Grounded Theory
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Socialization*
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*