Qualities, teaching, and measurement of compassion in nursing: a systematic review

Mark Durkin, Russell Gurbutt, Jerome Carson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Compassion has global implications for nursing care. However, failure to provide compassionate care is reported by patients. Nursing and nurse education have been scrutinized about the impact training can have on student's compassion. Furthermore, there is a paucity of standardised measures to assess levels of nurses’ compassion. 

Objectives: To identify (1) the qualities of a compassionate nurse, (2) how compassion is taught to nursing students, and (3) the instruments used to measure compassion in nursing. 

Design: Systematic literature review. Data Sources: CINHAL, EBSCO, SCOPUS, PubMed, Ovid Nursing. Search Methods: A systematic review of published research was conducted with. No limitations in the search timeframe were used. Articles were included if they were (1) nurses (2) nursing students (3) educators and (4) patient groups, (5) written in English. Articles that were, peer reviewed, research articles, or articles grounded in evidence based practice were also included. Results: Fourteen studies (6 UK, 3 USA, 2 Canada, 1 Korea, 1 Thailand, and 1 Netherlands) identified eleven characteristics of a compassionate nurse. Two UK and one Australian study investigated teaching compassion to nursing students. Four articles reported on instruments used to measure compassion in nursing. Three were American, and one Korean. Conclusion: This review identified only 21 papers overall. Several qualities of a compassionate nurse were found. In addition, few studies have explored how compassion is taught to nursing students. Also, there are a limited number of instruments for measuring compassion in nursing. More research is needed in nurse education to develop a teaching approach and psychometric measure for nurses’ compassion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-58
Number of pages9
JournalNurse Education Today
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Compassion
  • Measures
  • Nursing
  • Qualities
  • Students
  • Systematic review
  • Teaching


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