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Teaching Empathy and Other Compassion-Based Communication Skills

Kelley, Kevin J. PhD; Kelley, Mary F. MSN, RN, CRNP

Journal for Nurses in Professional Development: November/December 2013 - Volume 29 - Issue 6 - p 321–324
doi: 10.1097/01.NND.0000436794.24434.90

Empathy plays an important role in comprehensive nursing care. Empathy outcome research shows that exposure to an empathetic person has a palliative and even healing effect on patients. Teaching nurses how to communicate with empathy is crucial to unleash the true potential that empathy has to transform and heal. Four active listening skills and six compassion-based skills are defined. A suggested training rubric appropriate for use in multiple training contexts is provided.

The authors define four active listening skills and six compassion-based skills and provide nursing relevant examples for each skill along with a training rubric appropriate to teach these skills.

Kevin J. Kelley, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Psychology Program, Penn State Lehigh Valley Campus, Center Valley.

Mary F. Kelley, MSN, RN, CRNP, is Nurse Practitioner, Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania Health Systems, Philadelphia.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationship with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE: Kevin J. Kelley, PhD, Penn State Lehigh Valley, 2809 Saucon Valley Rd., Center Valley, PA 18034 (e-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.