Nurse empathy and the care of people with dementia

Robin Leigh Digby, Susan Fiona Lee, Allison Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Empathy is widely accepted as an essential nursing attribute yet the relationship between nurse empathy and the care of people with dementia in the hospital setting has rarely been explored. A number of themes have emerged from the relevant literature regarding the influences which shape a nurse’s ability to deliver empathetic care to this patient cohort. These issues include a lack of hospital resources, an organisational focus on operational issues such as patient flow and risk management, and widespread stigmatisation of dementia in society. Setting Acute and sub-acute facilities. Subjects In-patients with dementia and nurses Primary argument Although there is widespread acknowledgment that nurses require empathy to deliver quality care, the complexity of caring for people with dementia in hospital creates further challenges for both nurses and patients. This issue has been discussed previously but there is little evidence that the situation has improved. Conclusion This paper details the relevant influences on the ability of nurses to care empathetically for people with dementia in hospital. The recognition that there are distinct factors related to this patient cohort is an important one and may assist nurses and health organisations to identify systemic and individual problems associated with hospitalisation and lead to the implementation of supportive strategies. Appropriate nurse-patient ratios which consider the additional workload attached to caring for people with dementia, clinical supervision and targeted nurse education must be considered to ensure health systems deliver appropriate person-centred care to people with dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-59
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Dementia
  • empathy
  • nursing care
  • hospital
  • compassion
  • in-patient

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