Caring in Medicine

What is Caring?

The Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine (KNN) defines caring as: "A blend of practices, dispositions and motivations—attentiveness, responsibility, competency, responsiveness and engagement/citizenship—all aimed at ensuring that individuals and populations grow, develop and flourish as best they can."

We also recognize the following as key to this expansive definition of caring:

  • It is situated in the context of relationships and built on acceptance of interdependence.
  • It acknowledges inherent power imbalances but eschews dominance and seeks humility.
  • Trust is a precondition for caring and is also generated in a reinforcing loop.
  • Caring is mutually beneficial and rewarding.
  • Standards and aspirational qualities are embedded in practices of caring, and practitioners strive to continually improve their efforts.

    Learn More

The following caring references have informed the KNN's caring work:

  1. Tronto, Joan (2013). Caring democracy: markets, caring and justice. New York  and London: New York University Press.
  2. Tronto, Joan (1993). Moral boundaries: a political argument for an ethic of care. New York, New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.
  3. Held, Virginia (2006). The ethics of care: personal, political, and global.  New York, New York; Oxford University Press.
  4. Mayeroff, Milton (1971). On caring. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Areas of Exploration

The KNN aims to reshape how physicians are trained and to impact the field of medicine by prioritizing the practice of caring in both clinical work and medical education. Participating KNN schools are working together to create a model for caring by:

  • Exploring perceptions of the habits, personal attitudes and attributes associated with being a caring clinician from the perspective of key healthcare stakeholders (patients and caregivers, clinicians, allied health professionals and trainees).
  • Exploring how caring is related to the characteristics of empathy, kindness, compassion, among other attributes within the healthcare context.
  • Exploring how caring can be enabled, mobilized or enhanced in learners via role models, mentors, institutional messages, supportive cultures, self-awareness, sensitive communications and shared values.


Additional Resources on Caring

  Practices of Caring: A Framework for Medical Education and Health Care

The Kern National Network Practices of Caring webinar was presented on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 to a live national audience.


Bonnie Miller, MD, MMHC
Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education; Executive Vice President Educational Affairs
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Keith Meador, MD, ThM, MPH
Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Religion and Health Policy; Director, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Warren Kinghorn, MD, ThD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pastoral and Moral Theology
Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School