SENSE OF EMPATHY IN HEALTHCARE COMMUNITY
- Posted by: Faizuddin
- Category: Healthcare Profession
A 50 years old lady had been diagnosed with a cervical cancer today. Her clinical laboratory test result shows that her cancer issue already at a later stage with a slim chance of recovery. It as a matter of how the doctor, nurses and even the clinic assistant to make the patient calm and settled with this sad news and a future recovery plan could be discussed in a very professional manner.
And later today, again, there’s another lady with the same issue and news to be explained to her by the same doctor and his team around him. This cycle keep on happening each day since the beginning of his Obstetrics & Gynaecology clinic in the hospital. The most terrifying part would be at one extend, the feeling of empathy is long gone as the issues and patient’s situation becoming a norm in his team daily office activities; it is just another patient in the clinic with their problem to be told and discussed.
Empathy in healthcare deliverables plays an important role in the patient experience and as key mechanisms of the doctor-patient connection. Empathy by common understanding is the ability to feel, understand and acknowledging the emotional condition of another person without experiencing that situation oneself. It is also frequently recognized as an equally beneficial characteristic of the healthcare workers; that are having a direct contact with patients and indirectly building a mutual relationship with the patient and willingly to share the sense of compassion voluntarily.
How important is empathy?
Empathy does matter for few reasons. Empathy surely could build trust in between the involved parties; it could indirectly increases patient happiness and compliance as a calm, satisfied patient will have better recovery rates. On the other hand, empathy is good for doctors as well. According to research, patients rarely verbalize their emotional concerns outright and, when they do, their doctors often do not acknowledge the concerns. Empathy can neutralize this issue, help doctors do their job well, and even buffer against doctors exhaustion.
So, how to build empathy?
There are several ways of building sense of empathy with in the healthcare provider’s workforce. The most basic ones are firstly to be a good listener; understand and digest every single word by the patient and try to be in their shoes. When it comes to your chance to talk, repeat again every word that you might think on the patient’s words mentioned and how they might feel on it. You may be surprised how much people are willing to share when they think someone is really listening and understand them.
Secondly, keep on reminding yourself there’s continuously be people in our daily routine life that we’re not comfortable to be together. It maybe our office colleagues, superiors, team members, or even friends (or friends to a friend) who you think don’t like you. Believe or not, this feeling is mostly from our own prejudice and assumptions. Bear in mind, no one’s life is perfect, everyone are having their own life issues and problems. Try your best to understand and find out as many information as you could to know the patient better and this could ease your negative perception towards him/her.
Eye contact may be perceived as very simple words but could be challenging to do for certain people with thousands of reason; avoiding confrontation for instance. Make a move and look into the patients in the eye. Stop doing any other things while listening to him/her, i.e. notes taking, typing and others. According to a report quoted in The New York Times, patients of doctors who made more eye contact had better health, obeyed more to medical guidance and were more likely to seek treatment for their future health issues.
Lastly, peoples occasionally might say they are okay, but their health situation and diagnosis reports tell a totally different story. Be sensitive on the patient’s behaviour; they may not a hiving a full focus while you are explaining, avoiding eye contact and other distracted behaviours and those are signs of someone who is not at all fine. These abnormal behaviours are almost impossible to fake; it clearly shows what are really happening to the patient. When used with awareness, nonverbal communication is a powerful way to build bond and strengthen relationships. Empathy is an ultimate way to care for the person.
And as Daniel H. Pink said, ‘Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his heart and seeing with his eyes. Not only is empathy, hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place’.
KPJ Klang Specialist Hospital