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Mission Critical

Nursing Leadership Support for Compassion to Sustain Staff Well-being

Lown, Beth A. MD, FACH

doi: 10.1097/NAQ.0000000000000302
Original Articles

Compassion, the foundation of Nursing, is a source of both healing for those who suffer and of purpose and meaning for those who seek to heal others. Increasingly, however, the fast pace and volume of care and documentation requirements diminish time with patients and families and hinder the enactment of compassion. These issues and other aspects of the work environment decrease the satisfaction and well-being of professional caregivers and are contributing to a rising tide of burnout. Research suggests that employee engagement emerges from their satisfaction and well-being; however, it is difficult for an individual to engage when she or he feels depleted and unsupported. Nursing leaders and managers can play a significant role in support of compassionate practices for staff and improvement of the work environment and staff well-being. Compassion practices that recognize employees for the caring they show to patients and each other, and that provide the support needed to sustain their caring and compassion, are associated with significantly better patient ratings of their care experiences in hospitals and ambulatory settings. This article describes an example of a compassion practice, Schwartz Rounds®, a program that has been implemented internationally to enhance staff caring and compassion, teamwork, and psychological well-being. Schwartz Rounds have been included as a component of organizational initiatives to enhance staff well-being and patient experience, and as an individual program. Nurse leaders and managers who wish to engage their staff can do so by supporting their compassion and well-being.

The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, Boston, Massachusetts; and Harvard Medical School and Mount Auburn Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Correspondence: Beth A. Lown, MD, FACH, The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, 100 Cambridge St, Ste 2100, Boston, MA 02114 (

Note From the Editor: Nurses and physicians share a working environment that is key to both patient and employee well-being and healing. As leaders, nurse executives realize that creation of a culture of caring is a team sport. Beth Lown, MD, is the chief medical officer of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. She has a special interest in compassion, as it involves both patients and those who care for them. While NAQ mostly publishes articles by nurse leaders, for nurse leaders, we felt that the topic of engagement would be well served by this article. The increased emphasis on burnout for all caregivers, including nurses, is a good reminder that we need to be compassionate to everyone, including our team members and ourselves.

Beth Lown is an employee of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, a nonprofit, organization operating under the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Its independent Board of Directors has complete discretion over the Center's budget.

The Schwartz Center relies on tax-deductible charitable contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals to carry out its work in addition to organizational membership fees to support Schwartz Rounds implementation and trainings.

Beth Lown has received no funding for the writing of this manuscript. Over the past 36 months, the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare has received financial support for Schwartz Rounds® from Takeda Oncology, The Leir Foundation, Inc, The Jackson and Irene Golden 1989 Charitable Trust, The Miss Wallace M. Leonard Foundation and Yawkey Foundation. The latter 3 funders have contributed to a financial aid fund that supports Schwartz Rounds in organizations that are unable to do so.

In this article, the author has cited some unpublished data (manuscript in progress) from a national survey that was funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

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