Empathy as an Important Nursing Practice

The origin of Coat of Arms (COA) can be traced back to 12th century when it was first used as a special identification sign in the battle field. It was later incorporated into societal and family values. In the case of nursing practice, our group has designed a COA using symbolical values representing courage, knowledge, work ethics, compassion and empathy. The Coat Of Arms (COA) is a representation which we are using for nursing care. In the COA there are lions on either which represent courage. Hence, nurses ought to be brave, have strength and be fearless in order to help patients who suffer from critical or acute illness. In the centre of the COA, there is the symbol of a heart which represents compassion. Compassion within health care helps with therapeutic communication. At the centre, there is a symbol of a lamp and light which signifies the nurse’s wisdom. Underneath the lamp, there is a symbol of people holdings hands, which represents work ethics and the importance of work in health care setting. Nurses working as a team help increase knowledge which is beneficial to the patients. It also represents the 5 members in our group where each member possesses different qualities and when we come together, we execute and function as a team. Within the light of the lamp, there is a symbol of two hands holding each other. This signifies a patient and nurse holding hands which represents empathy. Empathy represents nurses being able to feel and understand what the patients are feelings and being in their shoes. This paper is an in-depth analysis of empathy in nursing practice and how it connects with trust, therapeutic communication and care.

Analysis of empathy

In the nursing care, empathy is a significant quality that should be possessed by nurses. Empathy is putting yourself in a patient’s situation. It also entails subjecting oneself towards the feeling and understanding of what patients are going through. As a matter of fact, Kunyk and Olson (2001) observe that positive effect can be generated to a patient whenever empathy is suitably applied within the confines of clinical care. For instance, some of the positive outcomes of empathy include minimised rate of errors that arise from medical practice, improved patient satisfaction, low medical costs, and fewer rates of litigation cases arising from malpractice as well as patient compliance. In addition, the professional well being of nursing professionals is also closely attached to higher empathy. Modern nursing practice lays much emphasis in empathetic engagement of patients throughout their healing process. The latter explains the reason why medical education in nursing has incorporated empathy as one of the most vital tools used right from the time a patient is admitted into nursing care until the point of release (Kunyk & Olson, 2001). Therefore, it is worth noting that empathy in nursing practice has to do with improved therapeutic communication skills, role playing, shadowing a patient and also being exposed to role models.

A Coat of arms in nursing is a pictorial commonly used to refer to a unique design that symbolizes value that adds to the definition of practices being carried out in nursing practice. Empathy plays important roles of ensuring patients wellbeing through its relationship with certain values such as courage, knowledge, care and empathy. Different studies indicate that empathy in nursing has been an effective mode of care that has improved recovery process and wellness of patients. This paper analyses the coat of arms and the associated values of empathy, work ethics, compassion and courage. The paper also explores the role of empathy in nursing, its importance as well as significance towards speedy recovery of patients.

Empathy is a cognitive attribute in healthcare through which a nurse shows understanding of a patient’s experience and perspective, and demonstrates the effective ability of communicating them with the patient. Empathy, as reflected by the coat of arms is an important component that allows a nurse to share the feelings a patient has and this helps them to understand the concerns and fears facing patients. It involves communicating to patients, how willing and ready a nurse is to assist them and understand their feelings.

Empathy and trust

While we may discuss the value of trust in isolation, it may not be possible to do the same with empathy bearing in mind that the latter is part and parcel of trust especially if it is to be well executed. For instance, it is worth to note that empathy has a deeper relationship with trust in the sense that both of them share a platform of relationship communication and understanding. It may not be practically possible for a nursing professional to share empathy with an ailing patient if trust is absent. In nursing, empathy is a major component of trust. A patient will fell more at peace when he or she understands that there trust is existent and is also being upheld by both parties. In the case, empathy appears to be an essential element for improving health of a patient as well as diffusing or avoiding conflict, retaining the goodwill of patients especially in terms of being served a second time as well as developing solutions. Studies in nursing management posit that in providing better care to patients, empathy and trust play a significant role of understanding the feelings and position of a patient. This eventually builds constructive and effective doctor patient relationship.

Empathy is an important component that plays significant and fundamental role of allowing individuals, patients and nurses to share goals, needs and experiences as indicated by the expression in coat of arms. An individual’s ability to developmentally think and perceive personal desires, goals and needs is an important step in demonstrating empathy and building trust. Most empirical research studies in nursing practice are quire categorical that trust and empathy are necessary for the creation and emergence of mental schemas, models and diverse forms of working knowledge concerning patients and the relationship of nurses with others in nursing (Fields et al., 2004). From a neuropsychological perspective, the notions of perspective-taking and role-taking call for developing of dimensions of trust and cognitive flexibility which include the ability to consider and generate ideas, respond well to different possibilities and ensuring that changing information is incorporated into choice of behavior and decision making. When the aforementioned notions are viewed from a social cognitive framework and perspective of the coat of arms, it is found that they are fundamental to emotional responsiveness, sensitivity as well as empathy. If a nursing professional demonstrates some high level of trust, then a patient will be in a position to positively receive the empathy being given. In other words, trust is a powerful building pillar when nurses empathize with patients.

Empathy and Therapeutic communication

According to dictionary.com, therapeutic communication can be defined as the use of either verbal or non-verbal communication by a nursing professional in order to positively influence a patient. There are also certain strategies that can be used to encourage a client when communicating.

In most cases, nursing professionals are usually exhausted by the large amount of work they have towards the recovery of patients. For instance, malfunctioning machines, inadequate supplies, scarcity of support, patient distress as well as other competing requirements from their counterparts may make nursing professionals to grow weary within a very short time. This may render them unable to offer the much needed empathy to patients through therapeutic commutation as supported by Kristjansdottir (1992). Therefore, if a professional in the nursing fraternity has to boldly cope with these challenges, he or she ought to possess or be well endowed with effective communication skills in order to reach out the patient within short period of time and also in a way that will not dissipate his or her physical or psychological energy. It is also imperative to mention that therapeutic communication is a technique that is professionally designed to cater for empathy need by patients since it has been noted to cut down on the level of stress. In addition, a well applied therapeutic communication is also capable of minimizing stress both for the one who is being cared for and the one giving care.

Therapeutic communication in nursing is a critical practice and patient oriented approach aimed at ensuring that patients benefit in terms of health. This calls for empathy that brings about the whole understanding of a patients position. It is important to note that to provide effective therapeutic communication, there must be empathy and understanding of a patient’s condition. Nursing practice is a therapeutic and significant interpersonal process which requires nurses be competent when dealing with emotions of patients as well as those of other nurses. Patients who are suffering from acute illness often have a heightened emotional state which requires an empathetic understanding.

It is common to witness people communicating or act casually towards others. Sometimes, there is very minimal reflection on the impacts of words being used while communicating. While the latter scenario may be common in ordinary communication, it is worth noting that empathy may not be fully executed where there is lack of passionate communication which is a ‘cure’ on its own. For example, responding dismissively or asking personal questions in the midst of a conversation is uncalled for and not therapeutic at all.

Professional nurses in the field of healthcare should be more articulate and sensitive on how they communicate with patients. For instance, they should strive to ensure that all avenues of communication are open. In their formal medical education, nurses ought to appreciate that therapeutic communication has the capacity to express respect, interest and care in various ways. According to Hojat, Fields & Gonnella (2003), one of the most formidable ways of executing therapeutic communication is through active listening. Body language may be used as a signal to active listening. Another way of sending a signal of attentiveness and interest is by facing a patient in a patient while sited in a forward leaning posture. This should be done with frequent eye contact. When therapeutic communication is executed in that manner, a patient will be able to gain positive consciousness through empathetic communication.

Caring nature

Caring is the ability to safeguard or protect an individual in a compassionate manner. Empathy is one of the key driving elements in primary nursing care especially in terms of patient’s understanding. In other terms, patients interpret empathy to caring nature. As a matter of fact, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Besides, a positive relationship between a nurse and patient can only be enhanced through a caring attitude derived from empathy. Furthermore, diagnostic accuracy can also be enhanced through caring nature of nursing professionals. There is a very close link between patient care and the kind of empathy delivered by nursing in any healthcare set up. For instance, a caring nature can only be exemplified in an environment where there is positive emotional engagement between the two parties. Hence, expression of care is of utmost importance in healthcare delivery of empathy.

The perception that expressing empathy through caring of patients can pose professional challenge is quite misleading bearing in mind that empathy is intimately linked to being close to a patient’s feelings (Ancel, 2006). The ability to develop a caring attitude among nurses is a feeling which is normally portrayed nonverbally through emotions, thoughts and signs of care after understanding the situation a patient is going through. It is also imperative to note that the ability of a nurse to empathize is impacted on by a nurse’s previous professional and personal experiences as well as attributes. In addition, certain stimulus like a health problem of a patient may trigger both emotional and physiological response of caring in a nurse if it is relatable. The author continues to indicate that empathy therefore has very strong links with caring and is essential in ensuring the well being of a patient

Discussion and analysis

Out of the three qualities discussed above namely trust, therapeutic communication and care, I have a strong belief that trust is the most important quality towards delivery of empathy in nursing practice. While therapeutic communication has been regarded as one the points through which a nursing professional gets in contact with a patient, it is also imperative to mention that a patient may completely fail to benefit from empathetic cure if there is lack of trust between the two parties. In other words, trust as a nursing quality tends to encompass the holistic need for empathy bearing in mind that it creates a welcoming environment through which both a patient and nurse can open up to each other. In addition, the presence of a trustworthy environment that has been created by both a nursing professional and a patient is indeed a key ingredient in improving the meaningfulness of empathy towards recovery of patients.

Although trust is an outstanding quality when delivering empathy, it is worth noting that the current perspective on this value seems to have dwindled a lot. According to Kristjansdottir (1992), there is a growing tendency of most nursing practitioners foregoing the value attached to trust as long as they achieve the empathetic need required by patients. Worse still, the whole subject on trust seems to be quite tricky in terms of application because trust is earned and not acquired at will. Fields et al. (2004) note that it may take a relatively long period of time before two parties develop some formidable trust towards each other. After writing this paper, I have learnt quite a lot in nursing practice. First of all, I have come to appreciate that empathy is an important value in nursing profession. Secondly, I have learnt that professionalism in nursing goes beyond just simple application of knowledge acquired from nursing schools. There is need for a nursing professional to be dedicated and demonstrate commitment to his or her duties.


From the analysis above, it is evident that empathy is an important nursing practice since it enhances nurse-patient relationship. It is also significant in speeding up the recovery process of patients and assisting nurses to empathize with patients. A close correlation has also been drawn between empathy and trust, care as well as therapeutic communication. Caring nature is crucial when delivering empathy since it is not possible to exercise empathy without care. Therapeutic communication also ensures that both a patient and nurse can openly communicate and understand each other. Besides, the paper has established that trust is the most fundamental value when delivering empathy since it embodies all the other qualities. However, the current perspective on trust in nursing practice is that it should not hinder the due process of exercising empathy bearing in mind that two parties may not easily create a strong bond of trust with a short period of time.


Ancel, G. (2006). Developing empathy in nurses: an in-service training program. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing 20(6): 249–257.

Fields, S.K., Hojat, M., Gonnella, J.S., Mangione, S., Kane, G. & Magee, M. (2004). Comparisons of nurses and physicians on an operational measure of empathy. Evaluation & the Health Professions27 (1), 80–94.

Hojat, M., Fields, S.K. & Gonnella, J.S. (2003). Empathy: an NP/MD comparison. Nurse Practitioner 28(4), 45–47.

Kristjansdottir, G. (1992). Empathy: a therapeutic phenomenon in nursing care. Journal of Clinical Nursing 1, 131–140.

Kunyk, D. & Olson, J.K. (2001). Clarification of conceptualizations of empathy. Journal of Advanced Nursing 35(3), 317–325.

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