Sunday, December 12, 2021

Empathy in Healthcare

Would you describe yourself as a person with empathy for supporting emotional needs of others? Were you born with this ability? It may surprise you to know that you were not. This fundamental force of morality, this psychological phenomenon is actually a learned behavior. Scientific testing with animals, infants, adults and robots suggests that empathy viewed as an automatic process that catches the feelings of others is actually constructed in the course of development through social interactions, not through genes.

The ability to empathize is especially important in healthcare professions where biases can contribute to healthcare disparities. Sometimes the bias is overt, even intentional. Other times, it is done implicitly, unconsciously, but still doing harm. Healthcare providers must 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 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 in the appropriate manner.

One way of learning empathy in general living is by consciously putting yourselves in the position of others in an effort to better understand what they experience. Older adults are a growing population that more people are having contact with as caregivers and in general living. By simulating the experiences of many older adults, everyone and especially young people can develop deeper understanding of various issues of old age that they may not have considered. This helps them develop more empathy for the older adult population and a better understanding of how they can navigate their own aging.

Frances Shani Parker is author of Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers. Her blog is Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog. Visit her website at

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