Why Empathy Is a Skill Nursing Degree Students Need

Ohio students enrolled in a bachelor of science (BS) degree program in nursing are often surprised by the sheer volume of everything they must learn. 

Indeed, completing a nursing program can be challenging. And that’s by design. After all, as nurses play an indispensable role in caring for patients and facilitating positive outcomes for them and their loved ones, they need to know their stuff and be good at their jobs.

But which skills are the most important for nurses to master? Along with clinical skills, soft skills are equally necessary—especially empathy in nursing.

What Makes Empathy in Nursing So Important 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Recent research, meanwhile, has identified three kinds of empathy, including cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and compassionate empathy. 

While familiarity with the various types of empathy is recommended, what’s most important to know about empathy is that it’s the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person, see things from their perspective, and understand why they may react in a certain way. 

Given the stressful situations healthcare professionals find themselves in daily, empathy can be a tremendous asset when interacting with fellow members of the patient care team, including doctors and other colleagues. But, of course, empathy in nursing is most valuable in communicating with patients and their families—who are, of course, often under the most stress. 

Research has shown multiple benefits to empathy in healthcare, including better adherence to medications, fewer malpractice lawsuits, fewer mistakes, and higher levels of patient satisfaction—all of which are outcomes healthcare professionals aspire to.

Can Empathy in Nursing Be Developed?

If you are an empathetic person, it will serve you well as a nurse. But if you aren’t, the good news is that you can improve.

For a long time, it was believed that empathy was a personality trait you either possessed or you didn’t. Fortunately, in recent years, research has shown that empathy can be taught and developed over time.

Practices such as reading widely, talking to new people, examining one’s own biases, trying out activities that others engage in to better understand them, and working on projects with other people have been cited as ways to develop this important skill for nurses.

Nursing at John Carroll University

John Carroll University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing, launched in collaboration with Cleveland’s world-class medical institutions (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and the MetroHealth System), will begin enrolling students for the Fall 2023 semester. Through the BSN program, new teaching and simulation facilities in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology will support a forward-looking, evidence-based approach to nursing education.

JCU is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.