This article is the first of two presenting critical companionship as a metaphor and framework for learning from healthcare experiences. Critical companionship is a helping relationship in which an experienced facilitator (often, but not necessarily, a colleague) accompanies another on an experiential learning journey, using methods of 'high challenge' and 'high support' in a trusting relationship. The overall purpose of critical companionship is to enable others to practise in ways that are person centred and evidence based. Critical companionship is effective in a variety of one-to-one or group learning contexts, such as practice development projects, organisational change, practitioner research, work-based learning, clinical supervision and action learning. In this article, the development and testing of the critical companionship framework, through action research, are briefly described. The framework is then presented and illustrated with exemplars of critical-companionship expertise in an acute medical ward. Part 2 highlights how the framework was used in a practice development programme with NHS trusts for older people's services, to help nurses to become critical companions.
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