Nursing School Interview Hot Topic: The 6Cs


The 6Cs of Nursing are the foundation upon which your practice as a nurse will be built. They are: care, communication, compassion, courage, competence and commitment.

​The 6Cs in detail

Care is the core business of a nurse. It is the care you deliver to individuals, your caring attitude, and the good provided to an individual and the community through your care. It defines your work.

Communication is vital to developing a successful caring relationship with a patient, and to developing effective teamworking with your colleagues. It involves listening as well as speaking. Through good communication will come a positive workplace environment beneficial to patients and healthcare professionals.

Compassion is the provision of care showing empathy, respect and dignity, and is often described as ‘intelligent kindness’ – it will be central to how someone perceives the care that they receive.

Courage is your personal strength – your bravery, which will let you do the right thing even in a difficult situation. This might be speaking to a superior who is behaving poorly, or speaking on behalf of a patient who is worried about the quality of their care. It also means having the courage to innovate, and to embrace new treatments.

Competence means having the clinical skill and the knowledge to deliver effective care, based on evidence and research. It means understanding an individual’s health, and necessitates lifelong learning, to remain abreast of new developments and be confident in using them in your practice.

Commitment is to your patients first and foremost. You must be committed to their care if you are to make it through stressful days, long nights, and tough situations. You should be committed to each patient, and to the greater scope of care that will change patients’ experiences at scale.

Are the 6Cs the right framework for nurses?

The 6Cs were established as the core values and behaviours for all nursing, midwifery and care staff in 2012, after consultation with over 9000 nurses, midwives, care staff and patients. The 6Cs were then heavily promoted, including through the use of ‘care makers’ – healthcare staff and students who work as ambassadors to promote the 6Cs. The 6Cs are now very much part of the tapestry of Nursing in the UK, and indeed across the world. However, one might argue that the 6Cs are no better than the NHS Constitution values – respect and dignity, quality of care, compassion, improving lives, working together for patients, everyone counts) which were first published in 2009. One may question why the nursing and midwifery professions require their own set of guiding values, beyond the core NHS values. Sir Robert Francis argued that all NHS staff should adopt the core NHS values, rather than have different sets, saying that, ‘all staff should be required to commit to abiding by its values and principles.’

Many claim that the 6Cs are simpler than the NHS core values, and they are certainly easier to remember, and to promote. However, consider if you think that doctors would be comfortable reducing the entirety of their practice to six words. The answer is likely that they would not. Indeed, many nurses feel that the 6Cs reduce the complexity, learning and dedication of their practice to a series of emotional buzzwords that do little to aid them in their work.

The 6Cs should be the goal of any human – whilst relevant to healthcare on the surface, they are broad brush positive words that are relevant to any field. One has to define them further to gain benefit from their use. We should also consider whether the 6Cs are equal to one another – you will find compassion used commonly, whereas competence is less commonly thought of.

Whilst the 6Cs are of use to illustrate to the public the values that underpin Nursing, you would be well within your right to consider them overly simplistic for the nurses that they are supposed to represent. There isn’t a clear rationale or theory behind their implementation, and a set of values that define all healthcare workers – be they doctors, radiographers, janitors or nurses – would perhaps allow a higher standard of integrated care in the future.

Potential questions which may be asked in the interview

  • What are the 6Cs?
  • Which of the 6Cs do you consider the most important?
  • Who do the 6Cs apply to?
  • When did the NHS formally introduce the 6Cs?
  • Are the 6Cs the only values the NHS has?
  • Define ‘compassion.’
  • Tell us about a time that you have shown compassion.
  • Why is commitment one of the 6Cs?

How to answer questions on this topic

Memorise the 6Cs, and reflect on a time that you showed each of these values in your personal life so far. If you want to stand out, reflect on their role, and whether a single framework for nurses, midwives and care staff is the right route (rather than a framework for all NHS staff).

Further Reading....

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