Empathy In The Medical World

“Empathy is communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you are not alone’.”

Brené Brown

Would you choose the world’s most renowned doctor to treat you even if they lacked empathy towards you?

I personally would not. I believe that an emotional connection with a doctor is just as important as their medical expertise. I saw many doctors when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. All of them were great medically, but my final choice came down to the doctor that I was sure would provide me with the best medical care while also respecting me as a person. I needed a doctor that was willing to listen and explain to me what was going on. I did not want to be just another file on the desk. I needed to feel like I actually mattered.

Patient centred care is what they are calling it these days. Basically the patient is involved in the decision of what treatment plan they need, along with the doctor. A patient’s own individual needs and circumstances are taken into consideration. We all google a lot these days, we read articles, we hear stories, and we come up with a million questions. We aren’t doctors, but we are smart. We need to make sure we understand what is going on, not just blindly take orders from a doctor. Getting answers to questions causing you anxiety is just as important as the medication you need to take. The only difference is that one heals your mind, and the other heals your body. And we do know that there is a significant connection between the mind and the body. In saying this, I do trust my doctor blindly because I do feel heard when I complain about symptoms from my medications, I appreciate the encouragement when I feel like giving up and I am at ease when my questions are answered patiently. Empathy goes a long way for both the doctor and the patient.

It doesn’t just stop at the doctors though, the whole staff at the hospital play a huge role at making you feel comfortable. I’ve had both positive and negative experiences and I can tell you that the way you are treated by the cashier, the nurses, the radiologists and even the staff at the coffee shop – just to name a few- honestly makes a huge difference. They all play a significant role in a patient’s medical journey. I remember a scan I had to do when I was first diagnosed. I was already a wreck with trying to process my diagnosis. I was greeted with an extremely unfriendly face at the hospital and it just tipped me over the edge. I’m sure a kind word would have made the world of a difference that day. On the other hand, I always envisioned visits to an oncologist as daunting, but between my doctor and his assistant, I actually look forward to my appointments. I feel like I will be ok because I am treated with empathy.

Empathy is what every patient needs, what every human needs actually. It really does wonders. Empathy – a small word with such a huge impact.

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