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The Importance Of Empathy In Health And Human Service Settings

Info: 1998 words (8 pages) Nursing Essay
Published: 11th Feb 2020

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This paper will analyze communication , (definition /description) and using empathy as a communication technique. The importance of empathy in health and human service settings, and how it relates to the relationships between providers and patients. How it should be used and the effects on the provider patient relationship in health and human service settings. Also how the techniques of empathy are positively or negatively used as it relates to the provider patient relationship in health and human service settings.

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According to Proverbs 15: 2-4 “Words are used for good or evil .” That same verse can be used to describe communication also. Communication matters. It’s not rocket science, yet it is a concept routinely ignored in the education of clinicians. Patients know that communication matters, and it is often poor communication in the face of a bad outcome that initiates legal action by the patient turned plaintiff. Numerous studies also indicate that communication between clinician and patient is the single most effective predictor of patient adherence to a treatment plan. If the clinician utilizes effective communication skills, the patient will become an educated participant in the treatment, thereby increasing the likelihood of compliance.

One thing we all have in common is that we must all communicate in one form or another. Everyone communicates even if they know it or not. Both verbal and nonverbal communication is used during conversations. Using both forms helps convey and support the message you are trying to send. Up to 90% of all communication is nonverbal. The success of any relationship relies on one’s ability to communicate well.

Communication is important in relationships as it allows people to share their interest, concerns, support each other; organize their lives and make decisions; and it allows people to work together. Effective communication is based on the way we talk and listen, and how we respond and our body language. We can all learn how to improve the way we communicate. It takes more than words to create a safe, exciting and secure relationship. Too often the signals we send are not those we intend to send. When this happens, both connection and trust are lost in our relationships. Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. ‘Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another; it involves a sender transmitting an idea, information, or feeling to a receiver.”(Van Sellven 2010) Communication is much more than words going from one person’s mouth to another’s ear. In addition to the words, messages are transferred by the tone and quality of voice, eye contact, physical closeness, visual cues, and overall body language. Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. Empathetic communication is a teachable, learnable skill that has tangible benefits for both clinician and patient. Interpersonal communication in a healthcare setting is no different from interpersonal communication in any other setting – with one significant exception. Someone’s life could depend on the ability of the health care professional to communicate effectively. When dealing with people effective empathetic communication enhances the therapeutic effectiveness of the clinician-patient relationship. Appropriate use of empathy as a communication tool facilitates the clinical interview, increases the efficiency of gathering information, and honors the patient. However, in a healthcare setting there is often a goal other than just sharing ideas. The goal may be to develop a new treatment plan or to educate a patient about the need for a particular something. “The clinician needs to be aware of the tasks involved in effective communication, which, as Mock and Seidel both explained, include engagement, empathy, education and enlistment” (Mock, 2001; Seidel, 2004) . According to them, empathy is connecting on a personal level, by asking about home or work life, before working on the patient level. (Mock, 2001; Seidel, 2004). To be perceived as an empathetic communicator, the clinician must engage in what communication experts call active listening so that he or she really hears the patient, which helps emphasize the clinician’s sincerity in wanting to help the patient. Empathy is sincere and successful when a patient acknowledges that he or she has been seen, heard, and accepted as a person. This seems like a simple concept, yet the effective use of empathy presents common dilemmas for clinicians. Once again, clinicians tend to fall back on comfortable medical language that creates a barrier to empathy. Additionally, clinicians often confuse sympathy with empathy. What’s more, although research proves it to be untrue, some clinicians may feel that empathizing with a patient will require more time than they have to give.

Empathy is vitally important in good communication. Many people confuse empathy with sympathy, but empathy is much more. ” To deal effectively with those who have a different opinion to our own, empathy is an important communication technique to develop.” (Macnaughton 2009) Knowing what empathy means is key but to learn and practice the techniques will enhance the patient provider relationship. Here are several common habits that providers show they have no empathy to patients which will and can produce volatile situations: Interrupting with your own ideas and thoughts. Finishing the person’s sentence for them as if you know what they are saying or to hasten the conversation. Changing the subject to focus on a thought you had so the conversation shifts to you and away from them. Focusing on solving their problem rather than simply listening and discovering what they need from you. Thinking about something other than what the person is saying-having your mind . None of the things state below show effective communication skills. “Effective communication skills are the key to assessing, informing, and supporting patients adequately. Unfortunately, physicians do not always possess those communication skills.”(Fallowfield 1999) “Cousins found that 85% of people had changed physicians or were thinking of changing in the past 5 years.”( Mock 2001) Many of those who changed did so because of their physician’s poor communication skills. One of the qualities of effective communication is the use of empathy. Because some physicians have not learned to use empathy in their training as medical students and residents, they may be ineffective in the care of patients.” (Bellet 1991)

According to Corey 2004, empathy is sensing someone’s pain in an objective way, versus taking someone’s pain into yourself, is an important and dangerous boundary. What we need to learn is how to notice that boundary (even if you have already crossed it) and how to step back into a observer role, more like you are watching a movie versus actually living the part. But it is a double – edged gift. The gift is that you can use the empathy to get insights into your client. The pain is that sometimes you sense things from people that are dumped on you. If you are not shielded, you can get overloaded and drained: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Empathy and trust are a platforms for effective understanding, communication and relationships. Empathy and trust are essential to develop good interpersonal relationships between providers and patients. Without empathy, people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. Each of us have differing perspectives. We all experience moods, pain and hurt, joy and sadness. But for a provider to be limited to only see their own perspective, without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy for them to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even death of the patient. When reading the article written by Candi Feller 2003 she states a good point about empathy in the healthcare setting which was “The concept of empathy in health care fields is diverse, but most likened to ideas of compassion, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, and caring, all of which culminate in a desirable type of “bed side manner” that generates understanding and produces positive rapport with patients.” (Corey 2004) This is very essential to the notion of patient-centered care: to what degree can a patient’s best interests be served if the caregivers know relatively little about the patient’s world, values, or interests? When empathy is used properly it can be our tool to help others. Showing empathy at the right moments can also let others see that we understand. People appreciate this emotion. The concept of effective clinician-patient communication is a necessity, not an option. Because communication is both a science and an art that can be learned and mastered, there are many resulting benefits for those who work diligently to improve their technique, not the least of which is increased clinician satisfaction.

According to the Bayer Institute for Health Care Communication, “a clinician’s role in communicating effectively with patients can be broken down into a process that includes the following communication tasks: engagement, empathy, education and enlistment.”

“Empathy is a supposedly neutral term: in principle, the affective tone of empathic concern may be either negative (insofar as the relevant experience is that of apprehending and sharing in another’s aversive state) or positive (i.e., apprehending and sharing in another’s joy).” (Parvis 2002) Yet, contrary to this standard conception of empathy as a potentially , generalized disposition towards emotional perspective-taking, in actuality, negative empathic responses, as a rule. (a) are more common, (b) are more differentiated, and (c) span a broader range of human relationships than their positive counterparts. Furthermore, barring certain types of privileged relationships for example the provider patient relationship, and the failure of the provider to be empathetic will cause social disapproval from the client .Although patient communication is the most common and easiest-to-improve medical procedure, its significance is often overlooked. Effective communication is key to adopting a patient-centric approach to providing medical care, and to the reduction of adversarial clinician-patient relationships. By incorporating effective communication techniques into daily patient interactions, clinicians can decrease their malpractice risk. More importantly, clinicians can positively and effectively impact patient health outcomes without increasing the length of visit a win-win situation for both parties, and indeed the goal of health care.

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This paper has just analyzed communication , (definition /description) and using empathy as a communication technique. The importance of empathy in health and human service settings, and how it relates to the relationships between providers and patients. How it should be used and the effects on the provider patient relationship in health and human service settings. Also how the techniques of empathy are positively or negatively used as it relates to the provider patient relationship in health.

In reading this paper your light bulb hopefully came on and you saw how communication and empathy work hand and hand in the world not just the health care setting. Empathy in communication can bridge most of the gap between all communication errors.


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