Sympathy is not the same as empathy. Sympathy is not a negative attribute. In fact, it is an essential part of compassion. However, unlike empathy, sympathy is merely concern or pity for another’s misfortune. It lacks an understanding of how another person truly feels. Lacking empathy may not matter as much when it comes to a non-profit project seen while scrolling through social media.

Sympathy for the cause posted may be all that is needed to motivate the support needed. The same however, is not true when supporting patients receiving medical and mental health treatment. Sadly, empathy is significantly lacking in our healthcare system.

Having experience with our medical and mental health systems, both personally and through loved ones, I know the negative effects treatment without empathy can have on a patient. Healthy recovery requires a community of support. This feeling of support for the patient is also essential when it comes to their treatment team. A lack of understanding can create a sense of coldness from even the kindest caretaker.

This is especially true when combined with mere pity. Pity can easily be read as judgement for being a lesser person which can quickly create distance. Sensing coldness and distance from a caretaking can easily hinder a person’s recovery. However, no two people have the same experiences and empathy may not naturally occur in many caretakers without personal experience.

Through the years, more services have come to be available online. They are often facilitated through automated programs and required no human interaction. Due this fact, it could be assumed that such programs may help minimize the negative affects of professionals lacking empathy for their patients. However, they do not solve the problem of treatment without empathy. It simply ignores the problem by eliminating major segments of communication between human beings.

Avoidance of the problem is not a successful way to improve patient satisfaction. Automated systems and online patient portals may help with convenience but simply further diminish human interaction rather than improving it. On the other hand, establishing empathy for each patient can help improve the healthcare system at the most personal level.

As stated above though, empathy is not always natural due to the fact that many people do not experience empathy with out personally experiencing an equal situation. For this reason, in order to help healthcare professionals incorporate empathy into their practice it may be beneficial to create and implement training on the matter of empathy.

True empathy with full understanding may not be achievable without personally going through the same situation as another person. Even then, each individual person will have experienced the situation in a uniquely personal way. However, educating oneself on how to adopt an empathic mindset can be beneficial. Once educated on how to listen effectively and respond in a manner appropriate for differing patients’ situation, treatment teams can begin to implement generate empathic behavior.

Such a practice can improve. communication and care by building upon itself. With basic training, each professional in an office can go into appointments with an appropriate empathetic attitude. Once established with a patient, the generic baseline can be built upon to personally benefit each individual patient. Rather than cold distance at each appointment, each appointment can be used to improve empathy.

Such a system can improve human communication within the medical field. In other words, orthopedic surgeons doing hip and knee replacement surgery can improve patient satisfaction by implementing an overall empathetic approach to improve patient care at the most personal level.

2016 Scholarship Finalist

Victoria R

Tucson, Arizona

The final question on the application was an essay question.

The essay question was:

How can orthopedic surgeons doing hip and knee replacement surgery improve patient satisfaction?

Call Now Button