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The concept of compassion within UK media generated discourse: a corpus informed analysis

Bond, Carmel; Stacey, Gemma; Field-Richards, Sarah; Callaghan, Patrick; Keeley, Philip; Lymn, Joanne; Redsell, Sarah; Spiby, Helen


Carmel Bond

Gemma Stacey

Patrick Callaghan

Philip Keeley

Professor of Healthcare Education

Sarah Redsell


Aims and objectives: To examine how the concept of compassion is socially constructed within UK discourse, in response to recommendations that aspiring nurses gain care experience prior to entering nurse education.
Background: Following a report of significant failings in care, the UK government proposed prior care experience for aspiring nurses as a strategy to enhance compassion amongst the profession. Media reporting of this generated substantial online discussion, which formed the data for this research. There is a need to define how compassion is constructed through language as a limited understanding exists, of what compassion means in healthcare. This is important, for any meaningful evaluation of quality, compassionate practices.
Design: A corpus‐informed discourse analysis.
Methods: A 62626‐word corpus of data was analysed using Laurence Anthony software ‘AntCon’, a free corpus analysis toolkit. Frequent words were retrieved and used as a focal point for further analysis. Concordance lines were computed and analysed in the context of which frequent word‐types occurred. Patterns of language were revealed and interpreted through researcher immersion.
Results: Findings identified that compassion was frequently described in various ways as a natural characteristic attribute. A pattern of language also referred to compassion as something that was not able to be taught, but could be developed through the repetition of behaviours observed in practice learning. In the context of compassion, the word‐type ‘nurse’ was used positively.
Conclusion: This paper adds to important debates highlighting how compassion is constructed and defined in the context of nursing. Compassion is constructed as both an individual, personal trait and a professional behaviour to be learnt. Educational design could include effective interpersonal skills training, which may help enhance and develop compassion from within the nursing profession. Likewise, ways of thinking, behaving and communicating should also be addressed by established practitioners in order to maintain compassionate interactions between professionals as well as nurse‐patient relationships. Future research should focus on how compassionate practice is defined by both health professionals and patients.
Relevance to clinical practice: In order to maintain nursing as an attractive profession to join, it is important that nurses are viewed as compassionate. This holds implications for professional morale, associated with the continued retention and recruitment of the future workforce. Existing ideologies within the practice placement, the prior care experience environment, as well as the educational and organisational design are crucial factors to consider, in terms of their influences on the expression of compassion in practice.


Bond, C., Stacey, G., Field-Richards, S., Callaghan, P., Keeley, P., Lymn, J., …Spiby, H. (2018). The concept of compassion within UK media generated discourse: a corpus informed analysis. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(15-16), 3081-3090.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 27, 2018
Publication Date Aug 31, 2018
Deposit Date May 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 28, 2019
Journal Journal of Clinical Nursing
Print ISSN 0962-1067
Electronic ISSN 1365-2702
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 15-16
Pages 3081-3090
Keywords Attitudes; Beliefs; Compassion; Care; Discourse; Experiences; Nursing; Nurse Education; Organisational Behaviour
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bond, C., Stacey, G., Field?Richards, S., Callaghan, P., Keeley, P., Lymn, J., Redsell, S. and Spiby, H. (2018), The concept of compassion within uk media generated discourse: A corpus informed analysis. J Clin Nurs. Accepted Author Manuscript, 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 Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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