The ability and willingness to demonstrate concern for patients and their families
What is it?
Compassion is the emotion that accompanies the clinical skills of caring for patients. It involves being able to understand and empathize with patients and their families, while showing respect and patience.
Why is it important?
Having compassion is important because it allows for a more trusting and positive relationship between physicians and their patients. Showing compassion to others helps them to feel noticed and acknowledged as human beings in pain. Often, people just want validation for the difficulty they are experiencing. As physicians, having compassion promotes a sense of authenticity that keeps us close to our mission and values.
In the fast-paced world of health care, we often forget that patients’ lives are changing before our eyes and will never be the same. Pain and loss can be such a part of our worlds that we forget what it feels like. Mindfulness reminds us of the fear, anxiety, discomfort, pain and losses our patients are experiencing. Putting ourselves in their shoes keeps us aware of their reality.
Depending on our personality type and medical training, some of us are more comfortable showing compassion and concern for our patients than others. Feeling emotion and communicating it to our patients actually goes a long way in building a collaborative relationship and might even be an important part of the healing process. Sometimes it’s helpful to show the feelings we are experiencing by offering to give a hug, sharing our tears, and/or communicating our own feelings of sadness.
Take time to listen
One of the most common complaints of patients is that their doctor is too busy and didn’t seem like he or she had time for them. And when they feel like the doctor is rushing through an examination or conversation, they feel like they’re not important. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to be fully present when visiting with patients. Even though there may be a million other things going on, patients want to feel like they have your complete and undivided attention. To the best of your ability, be generous with your time.