healthcare worker

Empathy Is a Necessary Skill in Healthcare: How to Foster It

The healthcare industry is always in need of medical workers to care for the sick and the aging population. Across the United States, there is a severe shortage of physicians, nurses, and allied professionals.

Medical Professionals Hiring

In fact, according to reports, by 2025, the U.S. will need over 29,400 more nurses and more than 400,000 home health aides.

The shortage was felt more during the pandemic when millions of Americans needed urgent medical care due to COVID-19. Healthcare workers across the nation were overworked and extremely stressed because of the long hours and inadequate staff. This resulted in a lot of healthcare workers feeling burnout and having to quit in the middle of the pandemic because the pressure was simply too much for them.

There is also a dire need for more nationwide facilities, especially in regions where hospitals are few and far between. When practitioners open their own clinics or medical franchise, it is a welcome addition to a community with a growing population and increasing need for care.

But even with medical facilities in place, there is still a need to bolster the number of healthcare workers across the U.S. Not everyone can be a nurse or a physician. Aside from the intensive training that they have to go through, they have to have crucial traits required from every healthcare worker, including empathy.

Empathy in the Medical Field

The doctor’s office is not the most pleasant place for patients. Often, people go to the hospital because they feel unwell or in pain. It is also where bad news is delivered. Thus, it is common to see patients in physical or emotional distress.

There needs to be empathy in clinics from medical practitioners.

Empathy is the ability of a person to understand someone else’s emotions and experience from their point of view. It is different from sympathy, which means feeling sorrow or pity for someone going through obstacles.

But empathy is a more difficult task because it involves imagining yourself in another person’s position, feeling what they must feel.

Empathy is necessary for the healthcare industry because it helps patients. They begin to trust their doctors. They also feel more satisfied with their visit when there is a connection between them and their doctors.

Moreover, it improves compliance. They show up at every appointment and take their medication as prescribed.

nurse in a meeting

Empathy is suitable for medical practitioners, too. Previous studies have found that patients do not always verbalize their concerns whenever they meet their doctors. Their doctors, therefore, cannot address their ailments. Patients walk away unsatisfied with the care they receive, and doctors end up feeling inadequate and burned out.

Learning to be Empathetic

Empathy is not a trait that is inherent to all healthcare workers, but it can be learned. Start by being an active listener. Only by listening to the experiences and emotions of the other person can you understand what they are going through. Often, people do not actually listen to a conversation. They think about a response, or they are too focused on their emotions. These things prevent them from becoming empathetic.

Empathy also requires vulnerability. A connection between two people, especially two strangers, cannot be established if only one of them is open to it. Both need to allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of the other. Sharing your own experience and the emotions that you felt create an empathetic bond between two people.

However, it should not end there. Empathy involves taking action, too, and helping whenever you can. Feeling empathy toward another person’s suffering puts you in the unique position to know exactly what they need and what you can do to alleviate their situation. Because you are only adopting the emotions, not the challenge they are going through, you are capable of springing to action to help.

Doing something for someone else because of empathy is the right thing to do. Moreover, it will make you feel better. In a classic study, participants were made to watch another person get electric shocks. The researchers gave the onlookers a choice: help by taking the remaining electric shocks themselves or stop watching. Those who are high in empathy stepped in and allowed themselves to be shocked. Empathy made them eager to help someone else, knowing the pain that the other person feels.

Empathy is a valuable skill, especially in healthcare, where people are often in pain or emotional distress. As a medical practitioner, there are benefits to showing empathy to patients. More importantly, it leads to patients receiving better care.

The Author

Scroll to Top