Kindness can make a big difference in healthcare
Pole ni dawa, a Swahili proverb, meaning “concern is like medicine” rings true in today’s day and age but does it make a difference in the healthcare environment? One of Intercare’s core values that drives management and employees alike is compassion.
Compassion is a deep feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s concerns, distress, and suffering. It’s not just an emotion, and it is not the same as empathy, altruism or sympathy. Compassion is accompanied by a strong desire and motivation to act and alleviate or prevent the suffering you witness but to also have the knowledge and skills necessary to relieve the suffering.
But does compassion really matter? Hopefully, most people in healthcare should answer: “Well, of course, it matters because we have both a moral obligation and an ethical obligation. We ought to be compassionate." Compassion is more than good medical and patient care. It addresses the emotional and psychosocial aspects of the patient experience and the patient's innate need for human connections and relationships. It is based on clinical curiosity: active listening, respect, empathy, strong communication and interpersonal skills, and knowledge and understanding of the patient's life context and preferences. It involves emotional sharing with the patient in a two-way relationship.
At its core, it means treating patients as people, not just illnesses and giving patients a sense that they matter.
Research shows compassion can make a big difference in healthcare and has the power to:
• Improve patient outcomes – faster healing and fewer complications.
• Decrease healthcare costs, boost patient satisfaction, and reduce readmissions.
• Reduce healthcare professionals’ burnout - compassionate professionals experience greater resilience and higher levels of wellbeing – potentially counteracting burnout.
• Reduce employees’ stress levels by creating a more welcoming environment.
Sustaining our culture of high-quality compassionate care also requires compassionate leadership at every level and interaction to develop a “culture of compassion” within which this can be achieved. It includes a commitment by organisational leaders and managers to allocate resources and set policies that focus on the needs of patients, families, and healthcare professionals themselves to nurture healing relationships; to create flexible processes to implement and continuously improve compassion in care; and to support healthcare professionals and staff to manage the psychological and emotional stress of providing care so that they are able to act with compassion rather than experiencing personal or moral distress and burnout.
Living a compassionate life begins by taking compassionate, loving care of your health and yourself. Thus, embrace compassion in your life. Be kind to yourself and other people.
References and sources consulted
Lown BA. Compassion is a necessity and an individual and collective responsibility: Comment on "Why and how is compassion necessary to provide good quality healthcare?" Int J Health Policy Manag. 2015;4(9):613–614. doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2015.110