"The candle is not there to illuminate itself"

The first two days of the TQR conference in Fort Lauderdale has me reflecting. The words of Nowab Jan-Fishan Khan from the 19th century which entitle this blog were spoken by Patricia Leavy as part of her opening Keynote presentation. She spoke of her personal and professional journey so far – battling to find ways of helping the wider world to see and understand the experiences of others through use of the Arts (Arts based Research). My reflections were not so much about THIS research, rather a realisation that this, and other presentations through the conference were focussed on finding ways to ‘hear’ others’ experiences….and the importance of those efforts. Leavy called her efforts in the Arts a way of ‘accessing and expressing subjugated (hidden) knowledge’ and despite the academic language it was really a fancy way of saying ‘enabling people to speak using any means possible, anything that would help them to tell their stories’. This got me thinking abut the importance or recording what happens to us, what we think or feel and the impact it has on us, our families and communities. Oral histories are an interwoven part of my history, our history whether told through family gatherings, girlie chats or shared stories. These all have a purpose in helping to create connections and pass on knowledge and experience.

“The candle is not there to illuminate itself” – a powerful statement. It got me thinking – How does this relate to me and where I am now? How does this relate to the importance of my work, my contributions at this time? Am I a candle? And if so what am I here to illuminate by my actions?

My current work with the Compassion in Practice Team at NHS England is an opportunity to do what? Compassion in Practice – Compassion in research, how are they linked? For me its about enabling and valuing the importance and contribution of the health care workforce in human experience of care. Guiding and developing evidence with a purpose – the purpose is key. It brings me back to the quote of the Candle…its purpose is to illuminate a room. Providing a light by which others might see, be safe and the room in which it resides may be seen.

For me, here lies the purpose.

The role of Compassion in Practice (CiP) is to enable us to see, experience and promote the care that the people we care for deserve and that we as nurses (and other health care professionals) deserve to be supported to provide. The research, the challenge for me, is to formulate an evidence base for CiP; a candle – source of light so that its effects can be seen, experiences shared and its impact appreciated. Without evidence, without the research the impact of CiP cannot or would not be seen. Our efforts may provide solace for individuals or make us feel ‘we made a difference’ but no one would know, no one would be able to use our experience to inform their own and good practice would be more difficult to spread.

Without a Candle our efforts would remain in the dark…….hidden and silent. Illuminating nothing.