Opening up space for compassion in nurses’ handover meetings
Keywords:communities of practice, compassion talk, data-led analysis, handovers, non-scripted talk, patient safety
In this paper, we complement research into compassion in medical contexts with an analysis of the representation of patients in nursing handovers and the ways in which such practitioner–practitioner interaction can be said to demonstrate and evoke feelings of compassion towards patients. We label such representation as ‘Compassion Talk’ and suggest that potentially it can complement the information given as part of the standard format for handovers. The analysis is based on instances of non-scripted talk (NST) from three nursing handover meetings from a highly performing Medical Assessment Unit in the UK. In a data-led qualitative analysis, we find that within NST patients are represented in terms that not only make nurses’ actions to alleviate their suffering seem possible and necessary, but that also highlight their shared humanity and position the patients as if they are members of the nurses’ wider social group. We further demonstrate how NST can be successfully managed by experienced nursing staff and suggest, therefore, that handovers can function not only to pass on information accurately and concisely, but also as a space for nurses to regroup as a community of practice and to relate to their patients in human terms, as a defining principle of the profession.
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