What nurses can teach us | Christie Watson | TEDxVienna (2023)


Nursing cannot cure us, our human condition, this messy magic of being human. But here’s the thing, nursing doesn’t seek to cure. Nurses can remind us who we are, or who we are meant to be. It is nurses who can save us. Christie Watson is a writer and Professor of Medical and Health Humanities. She is Patron of the Royal College of Nursing Foundation. Her book Tiny Sunbirds Far Away won the Costa First Novel Award and along with her second novel, Where Women Are Kings, was widely translated and achieved international critical acclaim. The Language of Kindness, published in 2018, was a number one Sunday Times bestseller and Book of the Year in the Evening Standard, Guardian, New Statesman, the Sunday Times and The Times. It has been translated
into 23 languages, and adapted for theatre, with a UK tour beginning in 2021. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at www.ted.com/tedx


Transcriber:, Annet, Johnson, Reviewer:, Amanda, Zhu, I am sick and tired of compassion.

I, wasn't, always like this.

When I started my nurse training at the age of 17, I didn’t think much about compassion at all.

I thought about resuscitation and saving lives and cracking chests.

I thought, a lot about television programs, like E.R., and I thought, a great deal about George.

Clooney., (Laughter), But nursing taught me pretty quickly that saving lives is about a lot more than cracking chests.

In, 2018, I left.

The nursing register.

And I am a writer and Professor of Medical and Health Humanities.

And my research over the last few years has been about compassion, and empathy, and kindness.

And what it means to be human.

And central to the idea of all.

My work is that compassion is the most important thing of all.

And yet, I realized that during my years as a hospital nurse, particularly in intensive, care, I felt a bit burnt out, apathetic.

And sometimes even indifferent to extreme suffering.

I was experiencing compassion, fatigue.

Pain and trauma, like viruses, can be extremely infectious, and nurses, and other healthcare, workers.

They swallow suffering every single day.


The word “compassion” comes from Latin “compassiōnem,”, which means “to suffer with,”, “suffering together,”.

And there’s only so long you can do that for, if you do it right, without becoming a little bit numb., I felt a bit numb.


Then came the pandemic.


Remember being on a flight once, coming back from Kenya.

There was an announcement on the Tannoy: “Is there, a doctor or nurse on board.

The plane?” I looked around., Nothing.


Then the announcement again: “Is there, a nurse or doctor on board, the plane? Please make yourself known to the cabin.

Crew.” Now, I had no intention of making myself known., In, fact, I slid down.

My seat.

I wanted to drink, my gin and tonic and read my magazine in peace.

But, the announcement again.

And this time, the voice was urgent: “Is there, a healthcare worker on the plane? Please.

We need help.

We need help.”, And, so, I, slowly and reluctantly raised my hand.


The first peak of this pandemic, I, slowly and I.

Reluctantly raised my hand, again, and I returned to clinical work for a short time.

I found myself the lead nurse for compassionate care in one of the field hospitals that had been hastily set up in just nine days as a COVID ICU.

We were told our function was to save as many lives as possible.


It quickly became very apparent with this awful, awful disease that we weren’t going to save anywhere near as many lives as we wanted to.

And compassion became our central aim.


We realized, is how history will judge us.

And it’s how history should judge us.

We weren’t alone in our thinking;.

There was a time at the beginning of this, a hot moment, when the world felt alive with compassion.

It's, like we were shaken awake.

How quickly.

We forget.

One minute.

People were on their doorsteps.

They were banging pots and clapping for carers and delivering food parcels to their neighbours who were shielding.

And the very next moment, people’s curtains, closed.

Everyone shuffled past each other, heads, down, no eye, contact.

Everyone turned inwards - we all did - just trying to process our own pain.

And, a collective numbness swept through the world.

It is no surprise.

We are bombarded with tragedy.

The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered the other pandemics that already existed: loneliness, inequality, injustice, violence, racism, mental illness., The events in Afghanistan.

They’re hard to even think of.

And, the existential threats of climate change.

We are now told, is code red for humanity.

We are tired.

We are overwhelmed.

And we’re saturated with images of devastating, suffering, and so.

Sometimes it’s all.

We can do to turn off the relentless news and watch Love Island, instead., (Laughter), Maybe, that’s just me.


It is possible to recover from this compassion.


We must recover from it.

I know, it’s possible because I did.

Shortly after returning to clinical work, I remembered something really, really important.

I remembered what my patients had taught me, and I remembered what it means to be a nurse.


All my years in hospitals, I, never once met George, Clooney., (Laughter), But I did meet lots of patients like Betty.

Betty was elderly and frail.

And she was alone, And.

She was lying on a trolley in a corridor outside Accident & Emergency.

She’d come into the hospital with chest pain and hypothermia.

I did a 12-lead ECG.

Some observations, some blood tests.

And we couldn't find anything at all wrong with Betty.

So I got this Bair Hugger machine, which has white billowing fabric to warm her up.

And I made her a sandwich and a cup of tea.

I, just sat with her and held her hand.


Then she told me about Stan.

She told me, Stan, her husband of a lifetime, had died in the hospital.

Two weeks, before.

She described her heart pain, not chest.


She told me how they had danced, and how the fabric from the Bair Hugger machine reminded her of the parachute silk from her wedding dress.

And how time flies.

She said, I’d saved her life., Of, course, I’d done, no such thing.

I, just sat with her a while and I held her hand.


It was impossible to tell where Betty’s hand ended and where my hand began, and nursing exists in that space.

We exist in that space.

What a privilege to hold the hand of a person at the frailest, most extreme and significant moment of their life, to be a nurse.

Nurses remind us that we are not alone, not even now.

But, of course.

They do a lot more than hold hands.

Nurses are safety-critical, rigorously.

Trained professionals.

They are scientists and researchers and leaders and entrepreneurs and artists.

And they’re clinical experts.

They weave around our world caring for people in every setting, you can imagine: school nurses, district, nurses, practitioners, working in mental health and learning disability.


Forensic nurses, military, nurses, nurses, working in prisons, on homeless healthcare, teams, in hospices.

We’ve looked after children., There are even nurses working behind the scenes on Love Island., (Laughter), The, World, Health Organization estimates, there are 27.9 million, nurses, globally., 27.9 million individuals who have, despite personal risk, placed compassion at the center of their universe for us.

Nursing is a language with many different accents.

But it’s a universal language, too.

It’s, a kind of faith in itself, with compassion at its core, a belief and respect in every single individual’s, worth, regardless.

If, how we treat our most vulnerable is a measure of our society.

Then the act of nursing itself is a measure of our humanity.

And we all are now thinking, during this time of great suffering, about our humanity.

Who are we? Who are we meant to be? COVID has given all of us the time for radical change and the chance for radical change.


We must shake ourselves awake again and remember the action we saw at the beginning of this pandemic when we glimpsed our capacity for grace, for tolerance, and for love.

We can remind each other of our potential by listening, really listening, thinking of other families as well as our own, by helping those who need help in practical ways and building inclusive communities.

Betty was right.

Nurses are right.

Compassion cannot cure us, but compassion can save us.


The word, “compassion” comes from “compassionem,”, meaning, “to suffer with,”.

But the word “suffer” comes from feeling, “to feel keenly.” In.

This age of isolationism and division and hatred.

It is not feeling anything that we all must fear.

In order to turn outwards.

We need to feel all the feelings and remember our capacity, our incredible human spirit.

It’s time for us to raise our hands.

Rumi was a 13th century.

Afghan poet., In.

My opinion.

He was the greatest poet in all of history.

And I’m going to leave you with his words, more relevant today than perhaps ever:, “I know, you are tired, but come.

This is the way.” Thank, you., (Applause), (Cheers).


What nurses can teach us by Christie Watson? ›

Nursing cannot cure us, our human condition, this messy magic of being human. But here's the thing, nursing doesn't seek to cure. Nurses can remind us who we are, or who we are meant to be. It is nurses who can save us.

What is a good example of critical thinking in nursing? ›

Williams gives an example of this: "A critically thinking nurse will hold a patient's blood pressure medicines and contact the physician when he or she notes that the patient's blood pressure is below an acceptable level."

What are the 5 critical thinking skills in nursing? ›

One way for students to begin implementing critical thinking is by applying the nursing process to their line of thought, according to Vest. The process includes five steps: assessment, diagnosis, outcomes/planning, implementation and evaluation.

What is Watson nurse theory? ›

Jean Watson contends that caring regenerates life energies and potentiates our capabilities. The benefits are immeasurable and promote self-actualization on both a personal and professional level. Caring is a mutually beneficial experience for both the patient and the nurse, as well as between all health team members.

Which example in nursing practice would demonstrate watsons carative? ›

Greeting a patient with a smile while touching the patient's shoulder is an example of the carative factor of developing a helping, trusting, human caring relationship.

What are three 3 examples of how a nurse would utilize critical thinking when performing client care? ›

Critical thinking skills that will be utilized in nursing are based on the following cognitive skills:
  • Recognition - when a nurse understands that there is a problem.
  • Questioning - when a nurse decides whether safety is a concern.
  • Information gathering - when a nurse gathers data through observations.
Nov 22, 2021

What is 1 example of critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking example 1: Problem-solving

Imagine you're at work. Someone, potentially your manager, presents you with a problem. You immediately go off and start looking for solutions. But do you take a step back first to analyse the situation, gathering and reviewing as much information as possible?

How do you answer critical thinking questions in nursing? ›

Steps for critical thinking and rewording questions on the NCLEX
  1. Read each question carefully from the first word to the last word. ...
  2. Look for hints in the wording of the question stem. ...
  3. Reword the question stem in your own words so that it can be answered with a yes or a no, or with a specific bit of information.
Feb 8, 2022

What are the 4 major critical thinking skills in nursing? ›

  • Problem Solving. ...
  • Experiential Method. ...
  • Intuition. ...
  • Research Process / Scientifically Modified Method. ...
  • The Decision. ...
  • The contribution of critical thinking in decision making.

How do nurses teach critical thinking? ›

These include: Promote interaction among students as they learn. Learning in a group setting often helps each member achieve more. Ask open-ended questions that do not assume “one right answer.” Critical thinking is often exemplified best when the problems are inherently ill-defined and don't have a “right” answer.

What are the 6 C's of nursing? ›

The 6 Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, competence - are a central part of 'Compassion in Practice', which was first established by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, in December 2017.

What are the three key ability of a great nurse? ›

Like all career paths, it is important to research the qualities that allow someone to thrive in it. Nursing is no different. Before starting your career in nursing, you should know the qualities that will make you a great nurse, such as compassion, empathy, and patience to name a few.

What are the 8 C's of nursing? ›

These caring elements can be described as: Compassion, Competence, Confidence, Conscience, Commitment, Courage, Culture and Communication.

How do you apply Jean Watson's theory? ›

Briefly, the application of the theory is demonstrated as the practice of loving-kindness, equanimity, authenticity, enabling, cultivating a spiritual practice; developing a relationship that is helping-trusting; enabling the expression of both positive and negative feelings; having a caring-healing practice; a ...

How does Watson's theory influence current practice? ›

Application of Watson's Theory in Care Settings

In practice, this means that a nurse practitioner engages his/her own emotions in the caring relationship, not being closed to new spiritual and emotional experiences while looking after the physical and health needs of the patient.

What was Watson's theory called? ›

Watson is best known for taking his theory of behaviorism and applying it to child development. He believed strongly that a child's environment is the factor that shapes behaviors over their genetic makeup or natural temperament.

What are the major concepts of Jean Watson? ›

Watson's theory has four major concepts: human being, health, environment/society, and nursing. The human being is defined as “…a valued person in and of him or herself to be cared for, respected, nurtured, understood and assisted; in general a philosophical view of a person as a fully functional integrated self.

What is the best way to describe Watson's carative factors? ›

These carative factors are described as consisting of: cultivating the practice of loving-kindness and equanimity toward self and others as foundational to caritas consciousness; being authentically present; enabling, sustaining and honoring the faith, hope and the deep belief system and the inner-subjective life world ...

What is caring moments in nursing by Jean Watson? ›

A caring occasion occurs whenever the nurse and another come together, beyond ego, with their unique life histories and phenomenal fields in a human-to-human connection. The coming together in a given moment becomes a focal point in space and time.

What is an example of problem solving skills in nursing? ›

We use problem-solving approach in daily activities and nursing practice. For example, you use problem solving in deciding what to wear, when it is raining or while nursing a tracheotomy patient how to communicate. The problem solving process and the nursing process are cyclic (Burns and Grove, 1987).

How the nurse can apply the knowledge of thinking in nursing? ›

Critical thinking skills in nursing improve patient outcomes by enabling evidence-based decision-making. Nurse practitioners gather considerable amounts of patient data through evaluations, tests and conversations.

What are some examples of effective critical thinking skills? ›

Critical Thinking Examples
  • Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses. ...
  • Creating a Hypothesis based on Limited Data. ...
  • Moderating a Debate. ...
  • Judging and Adjudicating. ...
  • Grading an Essay. ...
  • Active Reading. ...
  • Deciding Whether or Not to Believe Something. ...
  • Determining the Best Solution to a Situation.

What is an example of teaching critical thinking? ›

Connect different ideas

Connecting different ideas is key to teaching critical thinking. For example, elementary school teachers can ask students if they know anyone who has to take a bus to work, and if so, why it would be important for that person to also have a train schedule.

What are the three levels of critical thinking in nursing? ›

These include general critical thinking, specific critical thinking in clinical situations, and specific critical thinking in nursing.

What are analytical skills in nursing example? ›

Analytical skills involve the ability to look at a situation and gather as much information as possible to make decisions that can impact patients and fellow nurses. For example, the ability to detect a patient's status is critical in nursing.

How can I improve my critical thinking skills in nursing? ›

Improving Critical Thinking Skills as a Nurse
  1. Ask questions, particularly when going through school and on-the-job training. ...
  2. Find mentors that have the skills you want to cultivate. ...
  3. Evaluate your decisions after making them. ...
  4. Practice stepping back from problems to examine the situation holistically.
Sep 22, 2021

What are 2 factors that affect critical thinking in nursing? ›

Four variables hypothesized to be associated with critical thinking ability were explored: age, level of education, years of nursing experience, and area of expertise in nursing.

What are the barriers to critical thinking in nursing? ›

On the other hand, during clinical practice nurses cope with several barriers that inhibit their ability to use CT, such as: lack of teamwork, high levels of stress, time constraints, and understaffing. All these barriers decrease the utilization of CT and the quality of care that nurses provide.

What are your strengths as a nurse? ›

For nursing applicants, specifically, our experts said they're typically looking for strengths like flexibility, a team player, extremely organized, multitasking, leadership abilities, creative problem-solving, an excellent communicator, or curiosity about learning new things.

What are the 4 domains of nursing? ›

Fawcett has named person, health, environment and nursing as the four main concepts of nursing that need to be comprehensively defined.

What are the values of nursing? ›

One of the most important values of nursing is to respect the dignity of their patients. This means treating patients with kindness and thoughtfulness as you provide care, and remembering to consider their emotions about the situation as you talk with them, care for them and educate them about their health.

What is the strongest nursing skill? ›

Ten Essential Skills for Nurses
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Networking. ...
  • Critical thinking and creative problem solving. ...
  • Professionalism. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Conflict resolution. ...
  • Adaptability. ...
  • Initiative and strong work ethic.
Jan 16, 2021

What is a nurse greatest strength? ›

Top 6 Nursing Strengths
  • Compassion. Having a deep awareness of and sympathy for someone else's suffering without judgment is the root of compassion. ...
  • Respect. ...
  • Calm Under Pressure. ...
  • Detail-Oriented. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Knowledge.
Apr 9, 2015

What makes a nurse stand out? ›

Kindness, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, emotional stability, empathy, and compassion are aspects of your personality that serve you well as a nurse. You exhibit strong communication skills. You communicate well with patients and colleagues — sometimes at their worst life moments.

What are the 9 code of ethics for nurses? ›

The 7 ethical principles the Nursing Code of Ethics is based upon include beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, accountability, autonomy, fidelity, and veracity. The following are brief descriptions of each of the ethical principles.

What are the five values that epitomize the caring professional nurse? ›

Caring is best demonstrated by a nurse's ability to embody the five core values of professional nursing. Core nursing values essential to baccalaureate education include human dignity, integrity, autonomy, altruism, and social justice.

What are the three concepts important to nursing according to most theorists? ›

The three concepts important to nursing are person (recipient of care), health (the goal of nursing), and environment (the setting where nursing care takes place).

What are the central core values of holistic nursing? ›

The current Standards of Holistic Nursing are based on five Core Values of practice: 1) Holistic Philosophy and Education; 2) Holistic Ethics, Theories, and Research; 3) Holistic Nurse Self-Care; 4) Holistic Communication, Therapeutic Environment and Cultural Competence; and 5) Holistic Caring Process.

What is the purpose of Martha Rogers nursing theory? ›

Martha Rogers' theory is known as the Science of Unitary Human Beings (SUHB). The theory views nursing as both a science and an art as it provides a way to view the unitary human being, who is integral with the universe. The unitary human being and his or her environment are one.

What are key professional nursing values? ›

  • Human dignity. Respecting human dignity was the most common value indicated in the reviewed articles. ...
  • Social justice. ...
  • Altruism. ...
  • Autonomy in decision making. ...
  • Precision and accuracy in caring. ...
  • Responsibility. ...
  • Human relationship. ...
  • Individual and professional competency.

What are the 6 C's of core nursing values? ›

The 6 Cs – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, competence - are a central part of 'Compassion in Practice', which was first established by NHS England Chief Nursing Officer, Jane Cummings, in December 2017.

What are the 5 C's of caring as the core of nursing? ›

According to Roach (1993), who developed the Five Cs (Compassion, Competence, Confidence, Conscience and Commitment), knowledge, skills and experience make caring unique.

What are the 3 C's in nursing theory? ›

Care, Cure, Core Theory

Also known as “the Three Cs of Lydia Hall,” it contains three independent but interconnected circles: the core, the care, and the cure.

What is the most important theory in nursing? ›

The person is the most important concept in nursing theory, but each theorist's interpretation of the other concepts is how to differentiate between them.

What are the 4 key concepts of most nursing theories? ›

Any new approach in nursing should provide clear and precise definitions for the four nursing concepts of person (human being), environment, health and nursing.

How can you apply Rogers theory in clinical nursing practice? ›

The practice of nursing, according to Rogers, should be focused on pain management, and supportive psychotherapy for rehabilitation. It is often important to look at both the patient as a whole person, and the patient's environment when treating the patient for an injury or illness.

What is the purpose of Margaret Newman nursing theory? ›

Caring partnership, which is based on Newman's HEC theory, as a nursing intervention enables nurses to identify with cancer patients and to help the patients find meaning in their difficult situations and their lives. Consequently, both patients and nurses will grow even in extremely difficult situations.

What is Betty Neuman's nursing theory? ›

Neuman believes that nursing is concerned with the whole person. She views nursing as a unique profession and believes that it is concerned with all the variables affecting an individual's response to stress. The primary aim of nursing is the stability of the client system.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Van Hayes

Last Updated: 02/10/2023

Views: 5237

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Van Hayes

Birthday: 1994-06-07

Address: 2004 Kling Rapid, New Destiny, MT 64658-2367

Phone: +512425013758

Job: National Farming Director

Hobby: Reading, Polo, Genealogy, amateur radio, Scouting, Stand-up comedy, Cryptography

Introduction: My name is Van Hayes, I am a thankful, friendly, smiling, calm, powerful, fine, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.