Building Consensus on Compassionate Care
The benefits of integrating compassion, love, and forgiveness in healthcare are widely accepted. To further develop systems that will allow and encourage those qualities, a conference convened in partnership with the Fetzer Institute brought together global leaders in compassionate care. In January 2013, a consensus conference was convened in Geneva, Switzerland. Attendees from 27 countries and the World Health Organization represented an array of disciplines including healthcare, theology, philosophy, policy and government.
Conference participants were charged with identifying a multiculturally appropriate definition of spirituality within a healthcare context, and proposing consensus-driven standards of care to create whole-person, compassionate healthcare systems through the integration of spirituality and health. This meeting built on accomplishments from prior conferences in 2009 and 2012.
What clearly emerged was the recognition of a growing movement in spirituality and health, calling for the creation of more compassionate systems of healthcare through the full integration of spirituality.
After some discussion on various notions of spirituality across various cultures and traditions, participants agreed on the following definition of spirituality:
"Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and experience relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices."
Along with palliative (pain management) and end-of-life care, practitioners agreed that compassion and spirituality should be integrated into all stages of the healthcare process.
“The full integration of spirituality into healthcare will result in more compassionate, person-centered health systems,” organizers wrote in summarizing the conference results.
Education and community engagement were highlighted as priorities in building awareness about compassionate care.
Additionally, attendees agreed that healthcare models around the world must be transformed into systems that honor the dignity of all people (patients, families, and healthcare workers); that models should be focused on relationships with individuals as well as communities; and that compassion should be the driving outcome for any health delivery system.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Health Professions.