Importance of Empathy in Healthcare
Empathy is a term that is often underused and misunderstood yet it is completely important in the healthcare industry. It is through empathy that therapeutic effectiveness can be achieved and it also helps form a health relationship between the patient and healthcare provider.
The term empathy dates back to the 80s when Theodore Lipps, a German psychologist coined the term to describe emotional appreciation of another person’s feelings. It is also described as the process or ability to understand an individual’s subjective experience while maintaining the stance of an observer.
Empathy is ‘borrowing’ another person’s feelings so as to understand or feel them without taking them upon oneself. By becoming a participant observer, it becomes easier to understand the feelings of the other person. The importance of empathy in the healthcare industry cannot be overly stated. Without doubt, it builds a connection but in the healthcare sector, empathy is more than an emotional and clinical connection.
It is about letting patients know that healthcare providers care about their well being. Emotional connection makes it possible for these healthcare providers to understand how patients are feeling and this makes it possible for them to create more sense about their lives. Every patient has a story and behind the patients, there is also a life. Because of sickness, lives are put on hold while others are interrupted.
It is therefore important for healthcare providers to understand how patients are filling in order to foster great and flourishing relationships to enjoy better outcome. Beneath any diagnosis made on a patient lies a life put on hold. Patients are bound by hospital devices, machines and walls as such they need emphatic nurses and doctors. Healthcare providers should note that there is more to patients than the diagnosis they make.
Recognizing that a patient has an outside life, even for a minute is invaluable to patients. Empathy is however not that easily noted in the healthcare industry. Often, patients, family members and their caregivers are termed as ‘difficult’ whenever they ask questions. However, most of the time, they are not difficult but rather, afraid and they want to get the assurance that their concerns are heard.
What they want above all else is a connection. With empathy nurses and doctors are able to engage, empower and connect with patients. It makes it possible for these healthcare providers to understand the feelings and experiences of patients. By acknowledging the emotional state of patients and listening to them, patients become more proactive and it also fosters trust, partnership and it triggers the healing process.
The most efficient, powerful communication tool in the healthcare industry is empathy and it should extend to understanding the patient beyond their symptoms and history to include their feelings, ideas and values.
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