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Genuinely caring: compassion and the healing nature of the therapeutic relationship

Hollywell, Emma (2015). Genuinely caring: compassion and the healing nature of the therapeutic relationship. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Compassion is frequently discussed in relation to nursing. However, to date, research in this area has been largely theoretical, and empirical investigation has been limited. This qualitative study aimed to construct an understanding of the nature of compassion in nursing and what makes it possible, in order to address the paucity of research and lack of consensus in this field.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six nurses and six patients across three hospital departments, with the resulting data systematically analysed and categorised in accordance with principles of constructivist grounded theory.

This study has facilitated a broad and multifaceted understanding of the construct of compassion, which emphasised the delicate interpersonal nature of compassionate care that occurs between the nurse and patient. Study findings suggest some factors that inhibit and facilitate compassion which play a powerful role in a nurse’s ability to care compassionately.

The findings of the present study challenge the suggestion that feelings-based care practices for patients should be abandoned in favour of etiquette-based approaches; it also contests contemporary wisdom that the best cost-effective measures are achieved through driving for efficiencies.

Suggestions are made regarding the role of counselling psychology in supporting the emergence of compassion in healthcare and implications for nursing practice and future research directions are explored.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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