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New research evaluates gentleness in patient care

Author: Leila Hawkins
15 June 2017
  • Professor David Holman with nurses from St Ann's Hospice

New research conducted by the University of Manchester and St Ann’s Hospice investigated how doctors employ gentleness when treating patients. This is one of the very first projects to focus specifically on this topic.

Over the course of four months Professor David Holman, Professor Leo McCann, Dr Clare Mumford and Dr Maurice Nagington from the University of Manchester, observed the daily work at St Ann’s Hospice to find out what employees do when they treat patients gently, and how gentleness is fostered by organisations.

The study involved actively engaging staff and patients in the data collection process. The majority of the observations were carried out during day care sessions.

Professor David Holman explained: 

“Our research shows that gentleness can be defined as a soft and slow approach to caregiving.  A soft approach involves speaking in a quiet, soft manner and the use of soft touch to communicate empathy, understanding and friendliness. “

“In addition, gentleness has a relatively slow pace and rhythm that involves spending time with patients and ensuring they are given “enough time”.  In particular, in gentleness, a soft and slow approach is infused through the behaviours used to provide care which combines, for example, friendly enquiry about patient needs, providing support, showing compassion and empathy, helping patients to manage and deal with their emotions and feeling, and building positive and rewarding relationships with patients.”

Commenting on the hospice’s approach, he said:

“Gentleness was very evident in the care provided by staff at the hospice.  Furthermore, our research showed that the hospice provided an environment that helped to foster gentleness as the staff had strong beliefs in patient-centred care, had discretion over how long to spend with patients, were highly supported by each other, and coordinated their work so that they had an in-depth understanding of patient need.”    

“Being involved in this research project was both enjoyable and fruitful.  We gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of care giving and gentleness, and a deep respect for the skills and dedication shown by staff.”

Eamonn O’Neal, chief executive of St Ann’s, said: 

“It is extremely important to us that the care we give to the thousands of patients and their loved ones that we support at the hospice is compassionate and gentle, and feedback we receive is that the kindness shown by our staff has a real impact on how people feel about their time at St Ann’s.”

“We were extremely pleased to be able to collaborate with the team from the university in this study, and have read the results with interest.  Person-centred care is something that we are passionate about at the hospice, and we know it is incredibly important to treat everyone as an individual with tailored, specialist care.  Gentleness obviously plays an important part in that provision, and we hope that the results of the project will be helpful to other health and social care practitioners too.”

To see a copy of the report’s findings visit Employee gentleness in care settings

For more information visit St Ann’s Hospice

See more articles in Care

Comments | 1


Jim Deming

This sounds very interesting. My question is, how can one steer away from condescending syrup that turns some people off? I suspect it requires reading the patient extremely well and meeting them where they are at.

15/06/2017 18:46:47

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