Monday, May 16, 2016

Empathy: Do Your Healthcare Providers Express Any? (Research, Video 4:23)

You expect that your medical needs should be addressed by your healthcare providers. But what about your emotional needs for understanding and support as a whole person? Shouldn’t your providers also be able and willing to express feelings about what you are going through? If they don’t, why don’t they? And what can be done to improve their responses? Empathy research studies have repeatedly found that healthcare providers miss 70-90% of opportunities to express empathy. These are high percentages. 

In this research study on healthcare provider empathy, there were 29 empathic opportunities within 21 visits. Provider responses were categorized as ignore, dismiss, elicit information, problem-solve, or empathize. Empathic statements occurred in only 13 of 29 opportunities (45%). When problem-solving was the initial response, empathic statements rarely occurred in subsequent dialogue. Among the 16 instances with no empathic statements, providers engaged in problem-solving in 8 (50%). Like many studies in the past, providers missed most opportunities to respond empathically to patients’ emotions, even when problem solving was done.

Healthcare providers need to be able to better recognize situations where they can offer empathy in addition to problem-solving. Patient care is more than just physical healing. Good healthcare provider care includes building a connection that encompasses a patient’s mind, body, and soul. It includes standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling what that person feels and responding. This video is a reminder of the various emotional needs both patients and healthcare providers may have.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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