A focus on the facts
Medicine, like any science, depends on experimental design, data-driven conclusions and hard facts. Quantitative measurable data is used to solve difficult medical problems.
There are research methods that allow scientists to capture the human part of the process. Of course, a provider’s education, skills, quantitative reasoning, experience and access to information must form the basis of their work. It’s important to talk to patients as people and take time to ask questions and truly listen. That distinction can mean the difference between care that is compassionate and care that isn’t.
Why is compassionate healthcare important?
Considering where compassion should exist in healthcare has specific implications for physicians, nurses and patients. Here are a few things to consider about compassionate healthcare:
Benefits of compassionate care
When compassionate care is practiced, it can have many benefits. For patients, some of the benefits of compassionate care are:
· Enhanced coping skills
· Improved health outcomes
· Feeling cared for and respected
· Increased satisfaction and confidence
· Better compliance with treatment plans
For healthcare practitioners, benefits of compassionate care may include:
· A sense of satisfaction from helping others
· Improved working relationships with colleagues
· Increased job satisfaction
· Reduced stress levels
Although healthcare workers continue to work in challenging conditions, providing compassionate care to patients is a rewarding experience. It has the potential to make a difficult job more rewarding and create a rapport that could improve patient care.
Standards of care
Standards of care, evidence-based decision-making, policies, procedures and proper training are meant to regulate and improve patient care across the board.
Patients who feel their provider is listening and being compassionate may likely provide more details about their symptoms, social history and personal care practices. This may reveal certain information that can lead to a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
On the other hand, if patients feel their provider does not care about them, they may withhold information because they are not comfortable, resulting in delayed or inaccurate treatment.
It might seem counterintuitive, but there is a way that more compassionate care can actually benefit healthcare providers from experiencing burnout.
While compassion might require a greater expenditure of energy, it can also provide a sense of accomplishment. When compassionate providers successfully treat a patient, they can see the impact firsthand. This can lead to increased motivation, which helps to dispel cynicism, withdrawal and burnout.
How can healthcare professionals take a more compassionate approach to patient care?
There are guidelines that can benefit most providers in taking a more compassionate approach to patient care. Research published in the peer-reviewed PLOS One journal, suggests the following:
1. Sitting instead of standing while speaking with a patient
2. Paying attention to nonverbal cues
3. Looking for opportunities to show compassion
4. Demonstrating compassion both nonverbally and verbally
These researchers found that certain training methods were more successful in building compassion in healthcare professionals. For example, professionals benefit from being able to practice compassion rather than listening to a lecture about its importance.
Healthcare providers benefit from learning how to engage in:
· Verbal explanation
· Small talk
· Nodding and smiling
· Supportive touching