Narrative Training as a Method to Promote Nursing Empathy Within a Pediatric Rehabilitation Setting

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Abstract

Purpose:

Empathy is deemed essential to nursing, yet interventions that promote and sustain empathy in practicing nurses within healthcare organizations are limited. We tested the feasibility and perceived impact of an arts-based narrative training intervention involving pediatric rehabilitation nurses for the purpose of promoting nursing empathy.

Design and Methods:

One-group qualitative repeated-measures design at an urban Canadian pediatric rehabilitation hospital. Eight nurse participants attended six 90-minute weekly group narrative training sessions and two in-depth interviews pre- and post-intervention.

Results:

The intervention positively impacted participants in three primary domains: Empathy for Patients and Families, Empathy Within Nursing Team, and Empathy for the Self. Major findings included: increased value placed on patients' and families' backstory, identification of “moral empathic distress” (MED), enhanced sense of collaborative nursing community, and renewal of professional purpose.

Conclusions:

This study is the first of its kind conducted in the pediatric rehabilitation nursing context. Results indicate that arts-based narrative training enhances nursing empathy and contributes to a supportive nursing culture.

Practice Implications:

In addition to enhancing empathy in clinical domains, nurses who participated in narrative training reported improved team collaboration, self-care practices, and renewed professional purpose. The results from the intervention are encouraging and future research needs to explore its utility in other settings with larger and more diverse sample.

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