Compassion is a word that is often now used by the medical establishment, with the Dan Poulter MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health saying that ‘compassionate care must be at the very heart of our NHS.’ 

In this context, ‘compassion’ is a very loaded word. Some believe that compassion isn’t something that can be taught; others believe that compassion isn’t necessarily a priority in demanding work situations and just getting the job done is more important. But I think those views are missing the point.

The degenerative spinal condition that I have had since a young woman, has given me years of care in the hands of many compassionate and mindful health care professionals.

I also have many years’ experience of teaching mindful management techniques to people living with pain, ill health and stress, so I also understand how vitally important it is to be not only compassionate and mindful towards those who are suffering, but also towards myself, otherwise I risk burn out and exhaustion.

Here, at Breathworks, when we run courses for Mindfulness and Compassion for Health Professionals we look at different areas such as the importance of the breath in cultivating compassion, compassion in the face of suffering and compassion for self and others, while the mindfulness aspects of the training explores mindful movement, mindful breath and practices that can be used in everyday work and life.

Learning mindful compassion for yourself and the people you are taking care of can have profound benefits for those working in the healthcare and caring industries. Majid Khan, a Birmingham-based GP, who trained here with us at Breathworks, explains how much mindful compassion has changed his working life: 

“I am on the frontline of health care with the general public; mindfulness practices have transformed my patient interactions and my own self-care. By using these practices, I have more energy, patience and compassion for my patients and for myself, I am able to relate to my patients compassionately during their times of difficulty and I understand when I need a 3 minute ‘mindful breathing space’. The way I relate to patients and myself has been revolutionised. In such a highly demanding and otherwise very stressful environment that is the NHS. I cannot emphasise strongly enough the benefits that mindful compassion have brought to my practice as a whole."

Likewise, Karen Hall, who is a senior Breathworks trainer says: "I had 26 years working in the NHS as an Operating Theatre Nurse, before joining Breathworks, so I know how busy and overwhelmed I used to feel as a nurse, and that mindfulness and compassion were scarce commodities when I felt so under pressure. However, now I teach these values to health professionals, I know that they have profound beneficial effects on both the practitioner and the patient.”