Optimising impact and sustainability: a qualitative process evaluation of a complex intervention targeted at compassionate care

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Despite concerns about the degree of compassion in contemporary healthcare, there is a dearth of evidence for health service managers about how to promote compassionate healthcare. This paper reports on the implementation of the Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care (CLECC) intervention by four hospital ward nursing teams. CLECC is a workplace educational intervention focused on developing sustainable leadership and work-team practices designed to support team relational capacity and compassionate care delivery.


To identify and explain the extent to which CLECC was implemented into existing work practices by nursing staff, and to inform conclusions about how such interventions can be optimised to support compassionate care in acute settings.


Process evaluation guided by normalisation process theory. Data gathered included staff interviews (n=47), observations (n=7 over 26 hours) and ward manager questionnaires on staffing (n=4).


Frontline staff were keen to participate in CLECC, were able to implement many of the planned activities and valued the benefits to their well-being and to patient care. Nonetheless, factors outside of the direct influence of the ward teams mediated the impact and sustainability of the intervention. These factors included an organisational culture focused on tasks and targets that constrained opportunities for staff mutual support and learning.


Relational work in caregiving organisations depends on individual caregiver agency and on whether or not this work is adequately supported by resources, norms and relationships located in the wider system. High cognitive participation in compassionate nursing care interventions such as CLECC by senior nurse managers is likely to result in improved impact and sustainability.

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