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Educating student midwives about compassion: A critical reflection

02 April 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 4


This article provides a critical reflection upon the author's experiences regarding the development of the ‘Compassionate and Professional Midwife’ module within the undergraduate curriculum at Nottingham University. Traditional definitions of compassion that describe alleviation of suffering do not fully resonate with the philosophy of midwifery, which is to support women through a normal physiological life experience. While the Francis report and the Department of Health and Social Care have stated that healthcare must be compassionate, there is little literature to support how this should be taught in midwifery education.

The ‘Compassionate and Professional Midwife’ module was implemented in September 2015 at Nottingham University as part of the Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC) revalidation process. The innovative compassion module derived from a newly developed values-based curriculum. The impetus to teach compassion came from a high-profile report (Francis, 2013) that suggested that compassion was lacking in healthcare, and recommended that compassion should be a central tenet of care delivery. This led to the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) Compassion in Practice policy (2012) to develop a culture of compassion among healthcare staff, and a vision of the values needed in the NHS was enacted to improve care for all. These are known as ‘The Six C's’ (compassion, commitment, care, courage, communication and competence) (DHSC, 2012), and are supported by a revised edition of the Code (NMC, 2015). This implies that, rather than being an implicit value that midwives possess, compassion needs to be taught and examined among health professionals. Midwifery educators should therefore educate their students about the ‘Six Cs’; however, there does not seem to be a precedent in the literature (and specifically relating to midwifery) to suggest how to teach compassion. The aim of this article is to provide a critical reflection on the experiences of developing a compassion module in pre-registration midwifery education.

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