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Leading with compassion in health care organisations: The development of a compassion recognition scheme-evaluation and analysis

Alistair Hewison (School of Nursing, Institute of Clinical Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Yvonne Sawbridge (Health Services Management Centre, School of Social Policy, College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Robert Cragg (Department of Organisational Development, Education & Learning, Cwn Taf University Health Board, Abercynon, UK)
Laura Rogers (Health Education England, Leicester, UK) (North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, Stoke-on-Trent, UK)
Sarah Lehmann (Royal Stoke University Hospital, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, Stoke-on-Trent, UK)
Jane Rook (Shropshire and Staffordshire Local Education and Training Council, Stafford, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 27 March 2018

Issue publication date: 6 April 2018




The purpose of this paper is to report an evaluation of a leading-with-compassion recognition scheme and to present a new framework for compassion derived from the data.


Qualitative semi-structured interviews, a focus group and thematic data analysis. Content analysis of 1,500 nominations of compassionate acts.


The scheme highlighted that compassion towards staff and patients was important. Links to the wider well-being strategies of some of the ten organisations involved were unclear. Awareness of the scheme varied and it was introduced in different ways. Tensions included the extent to which compassion should be expected as part of normal practice and whether recognition was required, association of the scheme with the term leadership, and the risk of portraying compassion as something separate, rather than an integral part of the culture. A novel model of compassion was developed from the analysis of 1,500 nominations.

Research limitations/implications

The number of respondents in the evaluation phase was relatively low. The model of compassion contributes to the developing knowledge base in this area.

Practical implications

The model of compassion can be used to demonstrate what compassion “looks like”, and what is expected of staff to work compassionately.


A unique model of compassion derived directly from descriptions of compassionate acts which identifies the impact of compassion on staff.



Hewison, A., Sawbridge, Y., Cragg, R., Rogers, L., Lehmann, S. and Rook, J. (2018), "Leading with compassion in health care organisations: The development of a compassion recognition scheme-evaluation and analysis", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 338-354.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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