Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The design of compassionate care

Crawford, Paul; Brown, Brian; Kvangarsnes, Marit; Gilbert, Paul


Profile Image

Professor of Health Humanities

Brian Brown

Marit Kvangarsnes

Paul Gilbert


Aims and objectives

To investigate the tension between individual and organisational responses to contemporary demands for compassionate interactions in health care.


Health care is often said to need more compassion among its practitioners. However, this represents a rather simplistic view of the issue, situating the problem with individual practitioners rather than focusing on the overall design of care and healthcare organisations, which have often adopted a production-line approach.


This is a position paper informed by a narrative literature review.


A search of the PubMed, Science Direct and CINAHL databases for the terms compassion, care and design was conducted in the research literature published from 2000 through to mid-2013.


There is a relatively large literature on compassion in health care, where authors discuss the value of imbuing a variety of aspects of health services with compassion including nurses, other practitioners and, ultimately, among patients. This contrasts with the rather limited attention that compassionate practice has received in healthcare curricula and the lack of attention to how compassion is informed by organisational structures and processes. We discuss how making the clinic more welcoming for patients and promoting bidirectional compassion and compassion formation in nursing education can be part of an overall approach to the design of compassionate care.


We discuss a number of ways in which compassion can be enhanced through training, educational and organisational design, through exploiting the potential of brief opportunities for communication and through initiatives involving patients and service users, as well as practitioners and service leaders.

Relevance to clinical practice

The development of contemporary healthcare systems could usefully address the overall design of compassionate care rather than blame individual practitioners for a lack of compassion.


Crawford, P., Brown, B., Kvangarsnes, M., & Gilbert, P. (2014). The design of compassionate care. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23(23-24),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 24, 2014
Online Publication Date May 19, 2014
Publication Date Nov 17, 2014
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 31, 2017
Journal Journal of Clinical Nursing
Print ISSN 0962-1067
Electronic ISSN 1365-2702
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 23-24
Keywords Care, Compassion, Organisational Design, Position paper, Review
Public URL
Publisher URL
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Crawford, P., Brown, B., Kvangarsnes, M. and Gilbert, P. (2014), The design of compassionate care. J Clin Nurs, 23: 3589–3599. doi:10.1111/jocn.12632, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


compassionate designjcnrevised3.pdf (422 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address:

You might also like

Downloadable Citations