Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Clinical Science


Family Medicine


Dr. Judith Belle Brown

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Carol Herbert

Joint Supervisor


Aims: This thesis aimed to explore the physician’s capacity for, and their experiences and notions of compassion throughout training and in family practice.

Methods: This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach. In-depth interviews with 22 family physicians were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim followed by independent and team coding. Then an iterative and interpretive analysis was conducted.

Findings: Participants expressed their understanding of the definition of compassion and described how it was an important quality in family physicians for both patient and physician satisfaction and effective quality of care. They explained the many factors that influenced physician motivation and capacity for compassion and the connection they developed with their patients as a result. Finally, participants described the challenges physicians face to keep compassion in balance throughout training and during their careers.

Conclusions: Three core concepts arose from this study: 1) a clear definition of compassion in the family physician; 2) The Compassion Barometer which describes the relationship between physician demonstrations of compassion and patient vulnerability; and 3) The Compassion Trichotomy which describes three interrelated developmental areas that determine the evolution or devolution of compassion in family physicians.