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Hilary Machan, Dr. Andrew Bruce, and Dr. Jennifer Medves

The importance of compassionate care

Dean Reznick on the Margaret Leith Bruce Faculty Award in Compassionate Care

Compassion is such an important part of health care. By showing compassion to their patients, practitioners develop a meaningful bond with them and even improve the quality of their care. That is why all of us in the Faculty of Health Sciences are so grateful to Dr. Andrew Bruce for recently establishing the Margaret Leith Bruce Faculty Award in Compassionate Care. Dr. Bruce was Professor and Head of the Department of Urology at Queen’s for many years, and he is currently a member of the Dean’s Advancement Cabinet.

The award that Dr. Bruce has established honours his wife Margaret, and it will recognize one faculty member in the School of Nursing each year who serves as a model for the teaching and practice of compassionate care. The inaugural winner of this award was recently announced as Hilary Machan, Lecturer in the Queen’s School of Nursing. In the picture above, you can see Hilary (left) with Dr. Bruce and Dr. Jennifer Medves, Director of the School of Nursing and Vice-Dean (Health Sciences). 

To commemorate the establishment of this award, I’ve invited Hilary to write a guest post for the blog to reflect on what compassionate care means to her and how she incorporates it into her work. Hilary was gracious enough to agree, and you can read her contribution below.  


Hilary Machan on Compassionate Care

I am honoured to be selected by my peers as the recipient of the Margaret Leith Bruce Faculty Award in Compassionate Care. I thank Dr. Bruce for his investment in our students and the future of nursing.

Nursing was not a profession I had considered until my mother – a wise woman who also happened to be a nurse – encouraged me to apply to a Nursing Program.  Queen’s University was the only school that I wanted to attend, and so I applied to their School of Nursing, along with other universities, just in case.  When I received my acceptance letter, it seemed right; from the first day, I knew I had made the right decision.  My time at the Queen’s School of Nursing exposed me to different hospitals, such as Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu, Smiths Falls District Hospital, and the Perth Great War Memorial Hospital. I even got exposed to different countries, as I did one placement in Barbados.  Since I have graduated, I have had the opportunity to nurse not only in Ontario but also Edmonton and the Northwest Territories.  Every experience has taught me new things, most importantly how to care.  Eleven years ago, I had the opportunity to come back to the Queen’s School of Nursing to teach, and I have enjoyed every minute since. 

The Queen’s School of Nursing places a focus on “Caring to Learn: Learning to Care.”  It is essential that we have faculty who can support our students in the required knowledge to provide excellence in evidence informed care, and it is equally important that our students have compassion and incorporate this into their care. 

It is a focus of mine to work with my colleagues to develop innovative ways that we can continue to integrate caring into the curriculum.  I believe that every encounter that we have with our students is an opportunity to do this, and I also believe that we can be most impactful when teaching compassion at the bedside, in the clinical environment.  We need to lead by example and identify moments that can result in a better understanding for our students of what it means to provide collaborative care that is compassionate.

Given the reality of the health care climate, time, cost and workload are barriers to providing compassionate care.  We need to discuss with our students how we can continue to involve and educate the patients and their families, to make them partners in their own care.  It is often what is considered “the little things” that are the most important, and end up not being little at all.  Actively listening, looking for verbal and non-verbal cues, responding to concerns and taking that extra moment with your patient and their family are  the moments that will often be the most meaningful to the people that we care for.

As much as I love teaching, I have not given up bedside nursing.  I have worked in Long Term Care, on Medical and Surgical floors and, for the last 20 years, in the Intensive Care Unit in my hometown. My commitment to teaching and to bedside nursing have complemented each other well and have strengthened my knowledge and understanding. This has ultimately improved my abilities as an educator and as a nurse. I have always believed that my role as an educator has made me a better nurse, and my continued bedside nursing has made me a better educator.

I believe that we need to provide our students with a solid foundation and assist them to build on this knowledge as they move from year one to graduation. I view learning as a continuum, and I see my greatest asset as my ability to assist students to integrate theory and compassion into the clinical setting.  This deeper understanding promotes critical thinking, better patient outcomes and patient focused care.  Our students come with various backgrounds, experiences and beliefs, this adds to the rich learning environment that we are able to offer our students and broadens their exposure and understanding. 

Throughout the year, the School of Nursing has identified opportunities to meet with faculty to further discuss how we will ensure that our students continue to be meaningfully exposed to the concepts of care and compassion.  I have recently attended the AMS Phoenix Conference, the aim of the AMS Phoenix Project is to bring compassion to healthcare.  I intend to continue to look for further opportunities to discuss with other Health Care Professionals how they achieve caring in the clinical setting and bring this learning back to the Queen’s School of Nursing to share with my colleagues. As identified by Dr. Bruce we need to “ensure learners of today remain committed to compassionate care while still being competent practitioners in an increasingly complex and automated health care system particularly in ICU”.


Hilary Machan RN, MN

Margaret Leith Bruce Faculty Award in Compassionate Care 2018-2019

Lecturer, Queen’s University, School of Nursing

Jim Wilson Meds "77

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 08:09

Congratulations Hilary and thank you Andrew. I can't think of a more fitting memorial to a truly remarkable woman. Margaret exemplified compassion and was a friend to all the students and residents that she encountered.

Jim Wilson Meds "77

Beverley (Bacon) Robertson, Queen's Nursing 1962

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 15:53

Congratulations, Hilary, on your award, and for advancing the importance of Compassionate Care. While Nursing is far from being the only profession where Compassion is an integral part of the care we, provide, it is part of every act we provide for the client. Thank you, Dr. Bruce, and thak you, Margaret Leith Bruce.

Beverley (Bacon) Robertson, Queen's Nursing 1962

Thank you for commenting, Beverley. Hilary is doing great work on compassionate care. This award is a very fitting tribute, and Hilary makes a great first honouree. 

Richard Reznick

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 17:59

Many thanks for promoting compassionate care, recognizing Dr. Bruce and honoring Ms. Macham. Nurses at KGH, everywhere, are critical for observing patients' changing conditions and communicating with their doctors and patients' families. Having been an Intern and patient at KGH and my mother and wife having served as nurses there, I applaud such dedicated service and hope that management trends won't diminish the positive role of qualified bed-side nurses to others directed by nurse-managers or hospital management.

Bill Moore, Meds '62

Bill Balfe Meds'62

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 17:20

I can't help but respond to this email. When I see Dr. Bruce's warm smiling face it brings me back to my days at Queens but also in Toronto when I saw him as a patient. What a marvelous doctor.
I thank Dr. Bruce and his wife Margaret for the generous gift for a noble cause.
Compassion is so important in the practice of medicine.
Not to be out done by my classmate Bill Moore, I have three sisters who were compassionate nurses.
Congratulations to Hiliary Machlan in winning this award.

Bill Balfe Meds'62

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