Purpose, vision and the people of the Compassionate Care Initiative at the University of Virginia


The purpose is to cultivate a resilient and compassionate healthcare workforce—locally, regionally, and nationally— through innovative educational and experiential programs. Our vision is to have safe and high functioning healthcare environments with healthy and happy healthcare professionals and where heart and humanness are valued and embodied.

What is compassionate care at UVA?

Can compassion be taught? UVa Nursing's all volunteer army of nurses, physicians, administrators, professors and students are learning concrete ways to insert compassion into every patient interaction -- and they're bolstering their own resilience in the process.



Clinical Ambassadors

The Clinical Ambassadors are a group of over twenty clinicians from various disciplines and departments at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Champions of the Compassionate Care Initiative's mission, Clinical Ambassadors implement small changes in their respective areas to have a profound and positive impact on the University of Virginia Health System's culture. The group meets monthly to share ideas and successes with each other, as well as to provide a supportive environment as challenges are faced.

Faculty Ambassadors

The Faculty Ambassadors are a group of about twenty faculty from the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Champions of the Compassionate Care Initiative's mission, Faculty Ambassadors integrate compassionate care principles in the learning environment and in their daily interactions with students and colleagues to cultivate wellness and community. The group meets monthly to expand upon what is already being done at the UVA School of Nursing, share ideas, and support and empower each other.

Student Ambassadors

The Student Ambassadors are a group of more than twenty undergraduate and graduate nursing students at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Champions of the Compassionate Care Initiative's mission, Student Ambassadors strive to model compassionate care principles in the learning environment and in their daily interactions with peers and faculty, staff, and preceptors, to cultivate wellness and community. The group meets twice a month to share ideas and to support and empower each other.


The seeds for the Compassionate Care Initiative (CCI) were planted in 2009. It has evolved and grown into a comprehensive program far greater than the original vision. Funded by a generous benefactor in 2009, an initial interprofessional group of ten University of Virginia (UVA) healthcare providers attended an eight-day contemplative retreat in New Mexico that focused on end-of-life care. As Dean of the UVA School of Nursing who participated in this program, Dorrie Fontaine experienced firsthand the value of contemplation and its role in resilience. It was also there that Dorrie Fontaine had the opportunity to meet Susan Bauer-Wu, the first and current director of the CCI.

From 2009 through 2012, two consultants, Cynda Rushton (nurse ethicist at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing) and Monica Sharma (physician and former United Nations director of Leadership and Capacity Development) led a series of workshops over two and a half years. Multiple clinicians, faculty and staff across the health system and Schools of Nursing and Medicine and other University schools were introduced to Dr. Sharma’s model, the Conscious Full-Spectrum model. This process helped to engage UVA clinicians in unit-based projects related to end-of-life care in different clinical areas, including pediatrics, palliative care, emergency medicine, and oncology.

video, created in 2012, showcased UVA faculty and clinicians implementing the early CCI work. The video described The Pause, a 45-second pause following unsuccessful resuscitation in the UVA Emergency Department to honor the patient and the hard work of the clinicians involved in the code; The Pause was formalized by Jonathan Bartels, RN in response to feedback by a student chaplain. One of the key features of the video is the voices of the clinicians, faculty, and chaplains speaking of how they themselves were changed and learned to “show up differently” in leading the institution towards a more compassionate environment. 

The early years set the foundation for CCI and the recruitment of Susan Bauer-Wu who began in this role of Director in January 2013, and hiring of Hannah Walker, CCI program coordinator.

Now, CCI is a highly integrated program that touches students, faculty, and staff across UVA, the broader community, and beyond. CCI promotes clinician (and student-clinician) wellness and high-quality, compassionate clinical care through a variety of educational offerings (locally, regionally, and nationally) and supporting Compassionate Care Ambassadors to be role models and champions in their respective settings.