ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:
Building a Compassionate Nursing Practice
Susan Johnson PhD, RN
Associate Professor – University of Washington Tacoma
Who did your Capstone Project serve and what suffering did it address?
My Capstone Project was designed to serve nurses in all areas of the profession - from staff to educators to nursing leaders. Nurses witness the suffering that patients experience, and they can suffer themselves, due to bullying and abuse from their colleagues and patients. Nurses also can experience suffering in their personal lives and from various dynamics of the healthcare organizations in which they work.
How did this project address that suffering?
In a book, I have outlined the ways that nurses can use principles of compassion and mindfulness to explore and address suffering – be it their own suffering or that of their co-workers, patients or students. The book offers research evidence on the philosophy and science of compassion and exercises on can practice with colleagues.
Who was your audience and how many people participated?
I piloted some of the exercises with over 80 nursing students. I have also shared drafts of the book with nursing managers, who have shared it with their staff.
How was the project delivered (the format)?
The book includes 8 chapters and 3 sections. In the first section, I provide an introduction to compassion, self-compassion and mindful awareness. In the second section, I discuss how nurses can build a practice of compassion towards patients, co-workers, students, and how leaders can lead with compassion. The final section addresses compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary traumatic stress.
What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants? On yourself?
I have learned so much about compassion and how it can be nurtured. I am taking this learning into my current practice as a nursing educator, and into my interactions with colleagues. Writing this book also allowed me to reflect on my 20 plus years as a staff nurse, which has been an opportunity for healing to occur.
How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?
This program has given me tools to teach compassion to others, and it has also challenged me to nurture compassion within myself. It has also allowed me to explore the connections between compassion and other concepts such as justice, humility, forgiveness and equanimity.
What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program?
I love the flexible nature of the ACT program. Rather than teaching one way of embodying and facilitating compassion, it allows participants to find their own paths. The program is challenging, supportive and a safe container for growth.