Compassion: A Dirty Word

Language evolves, sometimes in unanticipated directions. The word "compassion", once used in a positive manner, now seems to be used mainly in bemoaning it's lack.
I’m beginning to feel as though the word “compassion” is a dirty word. Maybe it’s the way people use it these days. It doesn’t seem to be about an actual feeling of empathy toward a patient, family member or even a colleague. It seems to be more about “ME ME ME.” The word is used more as a bludgeon to impugn someone’s character, motives or behavior than as a descriptor. It’s used to induce -- or to attempt to induce -- feelings of guilt rather than to praise or validate.

“I’m pregnant and I don’t think I should have to bend, lift, take isolation patients or work twelve hour shifts. My co-workers aren’t helping me at all. Where is the compassion?” (Perhaps the co-workers are tired of being dumped on, of doing all the bending, lifting, taking isolation patients and doing 12 hour shifts while Princess is languishing at the nurses’s station complaining about her nausea and regaling all with tales of her latest OB visit.)

“A mistake was made and a patient didn’t die, but they’re firing me anyway and I can’t get unemployment. Why no compassion for me?” (Of course *I* didn’t MAKE the mistake -- it just happened. Or if I did make it, it was because the charge nurse was mean to me, my Granny is in the hospital, I didn’t get much sleep because the neighbors were so noisy and no one taught me how to give meds anyway. Just a wild guess, but no compassion for you because you’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself that you’re not taking personal responsibility for MAKING the mistake in the first place, and you don’t seem to grasp the potential ramifications of the mistake.)

“The nurse wouldn’t give me extra water after that doctor made me NPO, find a charger for my cell phone or a bed for my girlfriend to spend the night with me. She/he was polite and professional and all, but she/he wouldn’t put out the warm fuzzies and the pillow fluffing. That nurse has no compassion!” (This usually comes after the patient in question has verbally and/or physically abused the nurse and questioned his/her parentage and sexual proclivities. Nurses, being human and all, aren’t usually inclined to go above and beyond for people who aren’t nice to them.)

“You are all MEAN! You’re just jealous because I’m so much younger, smarter, better educated and more beautiful than you. It’s true that nurses eat their young. And I thought nurses were supposed to be compassionate!” (Is it really “eating your young” if the “young” is so obnoxious, entitled, lacking in basic social graces and self-centered they cannot interact as adults and professionals with the adults and professionals around them? Trust me, Honey, if you were nicer to those old, fat, dumb, uneducated and ugly nurses who work at the same place you do, you might not have cause to complain about they way they treat you. Not that that would stop you from complaining anyway . . . . .)

“It has always been my dream to be an ER nurse, but you people are all scaring me! I never want to be as jaded and cynical as you! You should all quit and find another career because you have no compassion!” (Yes, it is my mission in life to avoid scaring anyone reading a vent thread and I’ll hop right on that change of career thing -- as soon as the mortgage is paid, the bills go away and I have time and money to go back to school to learn to be something that requires no compassion!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone use the word “compassion” in a positive way. It’s getting so I cringe when I see the word in type or hear it -- usually in a complaint because someone didn’t get everything they wanted or felt entitled to.




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