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A Steinian approach to an empathic understanding of hope among patients and clinicians in the culture of palliative care

Journal title
Journal of advanced nursing
Publication year
Richardson, K.; Macleod, R.; Kent, B.

AIM: This article presents a discussion of empathy in the context of human person, reason and hopes in the clinical setting. BACKGROUND: Empathy was introduced to nursing as part of an ethical and philosophical foundation for caring. It helped to solve the tension and meet the demands that empathy placed upon nursing practice. DATA SOURCES: This article is based on two studies undertaken between 2008 and 2010 to understand the concept of hope and empathy among people with terminal cancer and doctors who care for them. Doctoral dissertations and theses of Edith Stein (1916-1917), Marianne Sawicki [Body, Text and Science. The Literary of Investigative Practices and the Phenomenology of Edith Stein (1997) Kluwer Academic Publisher, Dordrecht], and Sister M. Judith Parsons (2005) have been used to examine: ‘the essence of acts of empathy’, ‘the constitution of the psycho-physical individual’ and ’empathy as understanding of intellectual persons’. CINAHL, MEDLINE and PROQUEST have provided further supporting data. Discussion. Steinian empathy requires that we use affective resonance, cognitive understanding and distance, as we grasp another person’s emotional and situational reality while in the caring role as nurses. Implications for current nursing. Steinian empathy is about recognizing a lived experience and standing side-by-side with that person. Nurses can transmit this knowledge to enable and support courage and wisdom to reduce feelings of helplessness when caring for people with terminal illness. CONCLUSION: Not only is empathy a safe and permissible emotion, it is the linchpin to a caring patient-nurse relationship and we must embrace this.

Research abstracts