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Calgary, Winnipeg researchers develop compassion barometer for long-term care homes

Last Updated Jul 2, 2021 at 11:53 am MDT

Bed at nursing home with nurse and wheelchair on background. (CREDIT: iStock photo)

CALGARY – When you pick a long-term care home for loved ones, how much does compassion play into your choice?

The Universities of Calgary and Manitoba are looking at how kind staffers are at long-term care and hospice settings and have developed a litmus test of sorts to measure compassion.

The U of C’s compassion research lab director Dr. Shane Sinclair and his team, including co-Principal investigator Dr. Thomas Hack from the University of Manitoba, gathered data from more than 600 patients and learned that while patient satisfaction is measured, it’s not done routinely.

And when it is measured, the focus isn’t on human interactions.

“[Compassion] is the piece of the patient experience that is most important to patients and families–i.e. receiving care from their physicians with a sense of warmth or being spoken to with kindness. It’s actually the human interactions that are really the most important or care that is given in a sort of a human kind of way from human to human,” explained Sinclair.

He says compassion–or lack thereof–was the biggest contributing factor in patient dissatisfaction.

So the research team developed the Sinclair Compassion Questionnaire. It’s 15 questions long and focuses on several facets of compassion.

Patients taking the SCQ answer things like “My health care providers spoke to me with kindness”, “My health care providers saw me as a person and not just a patient”, and “My health care providers were able to see things from my perspective”.

“And then probably the most important piece is this idea of really attending to a person’s needs in a proactive manner,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair hopes in the future this questionnaire will be regularly administered in the healthcare system and used as a quality of care indicator made available to patients and their families.

“I think it should be reported as well, so that it’s available to patients and families, for example, in wanting and needing to choose which care home they want to put their loved one in,” he shared.

“I know, for me, if I would have the opportunity to know that centers, compassion scores, you know, aggregated over a year period, I would take the long-term care home that had the highest compassion ratings above anything else in terms of placing my loved one.”

He says some of these compassion issues, along with other failings in long-term care nationwide, were underscored during the pandemic.