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Nursing Theory of Human Caring by Jean Watson

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Concept Analysis: Compassion

Each theory is grounded on assumptions, believes, and phenomena which embrace specific concepts. A concept plays an essential role in shaping and constructing the framework which can be applied in practice. Interestingly, concepts are drawn from the empirical environment, including observations, experiments, and personal assumptions. At this point, the concept of compassion is often presented as part of multiple nursing theories such as Watson's Nursing Theory of Human Caring, the theory which is full of specific aspects and components that enrich the concept of caring and compassion.

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Talking about the theory, the model assumes that nursing is closely associated with preventing illnesses, promoting health, compassion for patients, and the recovery process. What is more important, Watson believes that compassion is inherent in the practice of nursing, which is human science that is controlled by personal professional, and ethical human activities.

To conduct a substantial concept analysis, the paper seeks to define the concept of compassion, develop a literature review to identify major ideas, facts, and themes about the concept, highlight three attributes of a concept, and outline an antecedent and consequences. Additionally, the paper will focus on empirical referents, model cases, and alternative cases in which this concept has been used.

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Definition of the Selected Concept

According to Merriam-Webster (2016), care has been defined as the effort made to do something correctly, safely, or without causing damage, things that are done to keep someone healthy, safe, etc., and things that are done to keep something in good condition (n. p.). In fact, the concept of compassion is an inherent part of multiple theories in nursing and caring science (Asp & Fagerberg, 2005).

Specifically, the dimension of the scientific investigation derives from the assumptions regarding the meaning of such concepts as health, suffering, human suffering, compassion, and environment. It is also grounded on the interaction between people and the environment. According to Watson (2005), the concept of compassion extends to the practice of empathy and loving-kindness practice aimed at providing deep faithfulness and fidelity in the patient's welfare.

The concept of compassion is also represented through the cultivation and development of own spiritual practice revealed through the holistic approach to caring for mind, spirit, and body (Watson, n. d.). Hence, compassion is closely associated with the healing process of all the above-presented dimensions.

Literature Review

It is evident that compassion is one of the most important concepts while creating grounds for nursing activities. A nursing practice that is premised on care patterns and behaviors can contribute to quality outcomes in the sphere of health care delivery such as patient safety and satisfaction. It can also advance organizational outcomes such as employee welfare and turnover rates.

Tomietto, Papastavrou, Efstathiou, and Palese (2014) analyze the concept through Caring Behaviors Inventory to justify the Italian translation of the version of CBI in both nurses and patients samples. The content validity was acquired during the translation process. The results of the study have proved that CBI could be used effectively to contribute to the turnover and retention culture among the employees.

Edvarson, Watt, and Pearse (2016) explore the concept of compassion through person-centeredness and patient experiences that ensure nursing care quality. To be more exact, the concept of compassion is discussed in terms of perceived compassion behaviors and patient-oriented approaches which directly relate to the nursing care quality. The results of the study have revealed that the patient's experiences of compassion have a potent influence on the degree of the quality of health care services provided to patients.

Communicable and knowledgeable staff, timely delivery of services, and environmental support are among the key components of the concept of compassion. In addition, Jenkins and Warren (2012) discuss the concept of compassion in the context of spiritual healing and other models such as Roger's science of unitary human beings, Newman's systems model, and Roy's adaptation models.

All of the theories proposed to place the concept of compassion at the core of frameworks. These models serve as a driving force behind the translation of the themes of spirituality and spiritual healing. The latter is also associated with the concept of compassion. The translational contributions in the sphere of nursing have also been discussed.

The concept of compassion is also revealed through the analysis of competencies nurses require to provide diligent care to patients. In this regard, Dobrowolska and Palese (2016) have discussed the issue of compassion competencies as the basic features of nursing education. Reflections and perceptions of caring, their problems, and experiences have become important for outlining the strategy in terms of studying and teaching the nursing discipline.

Furthermore, compassion has been discussed in practical and theoretical terms to show that it is linked with caring behaviors and dimensions, indicating the confrontation between theoretical and practical understanding of the experience of compassion in a real-life environment. To support the idea, Santos, Bousso, et al. (2014) have attached importance to the recognition of the philosophical-theoretical underpinnings of care in the sphere of child and family care.

Finally, the concept of care in nursing is directly connected with patient care and safety. In the findings presented by Lusk and Fater, it has been suggested that patient-centered care is the key to the provision of high-quality care, positive patient outcomes, and improvements to health care professionals and organizations. The authors have also presented the definition, attributes, antecedents and consequences to provide the connection to Jean Watson's theory. In general, the synthesized material reduces the concept of compassion to the need for moral awareness of helping individuals who are in need and who are at a loss under specific circumstances.

Defining Attributes (Three Major Features)

About the above-presented literature review, the major attributes of the concept of compassion include patient-centered care, patient-nursing relationships, and nurses' responsibilities. To begin with, patient-centered care implies the use of healing approaches by revealing such feelings as compassion, kindness, and tolerance. Sabo (2011) underscores the importance of compassion in daily nursing practices which cultivates tolerance and favors the process of treatment.

In fact, compassion is a quality dimension which each nurse should take into account to identify the major elements of high-quality care. It is also a common practice and evolutionary paradigm of multiple nursing theories. Additionally, patient care is premised on holistic care, as it has been identified in Jean Watson's theory, providing an in-depth explanation of compassion integrated into the human caring framework.

Antecedent and Consequences

Compassion is presented as the antecedent in nursing because it represents the readiness of health care professionals to comfort a patient while providing psychological and emotional support in the case of stressful situations that can occur during the treatment process. Compassion is also associated with such antecedents as a patient who needs empathy, the distress of a patient who needs support, or the victim of a contingency.

Consequences of compassion reflect the results of the use of the concept. These include positive changes in the emotional and psychological status of a person who expresses such feelings as sorrow, pain, or comfort needs. Compassion does not always lead to action but represents the ability to sympathize with a person. Consequences could also be associated with the changed attitudes to the person in need of support and compassion. It should be stressed that there are negative consequences of compassion such as compassion fatigue, namely the conditions when one could become the victim of the pressure of meeting with patients who are in constant need of comfort and compassion, which could also create depressive moods among nurses.

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Empirical Referents

Identification of two Empirical Referents of the Selected Nursing Concept

Model Cases


Brian is a student of high school who has just learned about a little five-year-old boy from the African village suffering from physical abuse. The little body has been brought to the local hospital and was waiting for surgery due to serious physical injuries at the specialized unit. Brian has asked his mother to take him shopping to buy some food and clothing, along with all necessary medications. He also bought some toys for the boy to entertain him before and after surgery.

Although Brian knows little of the victim, including his language and culture, he strives to spend some time before the surgery. During the recovery period, Brian with his family decides to help the boy return to the village by buying the ticket for the plane. During the plane flight, Brian makes sure that the boy is not afraid and feels comfortable and well. As soon as the boy arrives at the village, Brian wants to make sure that the boy is safe and protected.

All Identified Attributes

Judging from the case, it is clear that Brian expresses empathy and compassion by taking actions that can protect the boy and make him feel better after the accident.


The antecedent is expressed through the purchase of clothes, goods, and toys, buying the ticket for the plane, and escorting the boy to the village. Empathy and sympathy are also among the antecedents.


The boy feels much happier and safer. He is healthy and feels support and encouragement to continue his living. The consequences are also associated with the boy's further awareness that there is always a person who cares and can help. The boy will also understand what kindness and compassion mean.

Empirical Referent

First of all, Strauss, Taylor, Gu, Kuyken, and Cavanagh (2016) have proposed that compassion is an important element of many areas in society and nursing. The authors hold that compassion is composed of several elements such as understanding of the universality of suffering, recognition of suffering, understanding of the person who suffers, motivating a person to reduce suffering, and trying to eliminate the feelings that make people feel uncomfortable. Such an approach demonstrates how compassion could be measured.

Second, Simon-Thomas (2012) has proposed three major dimensions of compassion. First of all, compassion is the trigger that could help people feel safe, and an active biological system that is focused on compassion. Second, compassion is closely associated with the concept of mindfulness, which defines the depth of a person's awareness of the problematic situation in which a victim is placed.

The brain is often affected by the way people perceive different messages in terms of the assessment of such aspects as humanity that is always associated with kindness. Finally, helping is always the basic responsibility of a person who lives in society. Compassion comes if people can realize the current moment before the occurrence of a challenge or a negative situation.

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Alternative Cases

Borderline Case

A borderline case introduces some critical aspects of the concept in the absence of some attributes. For instance, the example could focus on Marie and her sorority sisters who have promised to clean the yard of an old lady who lives nearby their university. Even though Marie strived to help, she still missed her alarm clock and was late for cleaning. She came late to the lady's house, but she was able to clean the yard and spend some time communicating with the lady about her problems. Later, she expressed her irritation with the need to spend time with the old lady instead of sleeping more at weekends.

Hence, although Marie is aware of the necessity to help a person, she still lacks inner kindness and awareness of the utmost desire that she should help this lady. Hence, the case reveals the ignorance of certain attributes. Apparently, the presence of compassion is revealed through the professional duty or social norms accepted, which can negatively affect the girl who can break social rules and ignore the request.

Contrary Case

There is also a contrary case where there is no concept of compassion because it does not reveal any attributes. The case reveals the story of a registered nurse who had rich care experience. Living in Central America for several years, she has not been working as an RN for many years, but she was sure that she was an experienced and professional work in the field of nursing. While walking home one day, she saw an injured woman sitting near her home gate; the woman was a Latina and was asking for help in the Spanish language. Since the nurse had had a very long and difficult day, she ignored her requests and passed by the woman to reach her home. The case is the exact example of the absence of compassion.

Although the nurse realizes the rules and is aware of how an experienced worker should behave, she does not feel that she must stop and approach the woman to help her. Lack of compassion is associated with the absence of kindness, ignorance, and inability to understand the problem. The result of the incident could even lead to lethal outcomes since no one could approach the woman in the end.


It should be stressed that the concept of compassion is a sophisticated notion which stands at the core of multiple theories in nursing, particularly Jean Watson's Nursing Theory of Human Caring. Compassion is an inherent component of care and patient care. It is used in patient-centered practices in nursing, revealing emotional and psychological support through different actions and emotional expressions.

The paper introduces both definitions of compassion, as a means of sympathizing with a person who is in trouble. The concept of compassion is used in many cognitive and behavioral theories, which are applied to nursing and which could be used in the future development of theoretical frameworks and recommendations.

Further, model and alternative cases have been presented to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the major attributes, antecedents, and consequences of compassion. The model case is an example of the way compassion could look. A borderline case is an alternative version of how compassion could be introduced but to some extent. Finally, there is also the contrary case that reveals the opposite definition of compassion such as ignorance and reluctance to sympathize.

In fact, each nursing practice should be intertwined with compassion as the innate feeling that each human expresses while communicating, acting, and behaving in ordinary life. Furthermore, the feeling of compassion is used by nursing professionals to comfort patients and make them feel better in both physical and psychological terms. Compassion is an important component of the treatment process, delivering a higher quality of care, and helping nursing professionals become diligent workers.

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