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The Role Of Empathy In Medical Profession

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“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only empathy is hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place”, an exceptional quote by Daniel H. Pink. With winds of smoldering waves, being empathic could be difficult.

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As there could be thousands of definitions in defining empathy, ranging from projecting one’s personality to the physical affection, I feel empathy is the sharing of joy/care between two individuals or more and that the ability to place yourself in other’s shoe is not an easy job. It’s like being married to that person and sharing a special bond to an extent where for instance, can help with you coping from a hardship. Similar terms that could relate to empathy are compassion, sympathy, and pity. Although they are synonyms, they don’t mean the same thing.

In just a few words, sympathy is the warmth of compassion and pity of another person’s privation while empathy is you actually experiencing those terms by putting yourself in their shoes. You may be aware of your companion feeling isolated, that your coworker is upset because he or she will lose their job soon, that your classmate is struggling to cope from the death of her parents. You just disregard as it is. You are too busy to even just have coffee with your isolated friend. You have many other notable things to do. This demonstrates lack of empathy. In a medical setting, understanding your patient well enough to place hold an assurance so that you’ve got their back is the key to becoming a triumphantic health care physician or any. To determine whether you possess empathy or not, let’s go through why empathy should play a significant role in medical practice/care. Typically, what happens when you visit your doctor is that you explain your illness and the doctor replies by saying your medicine will be sent to the pharmacy. But, you have tons of questions to ask him/her including why do I have this, what will this medicine be for, how many times a day do I need to take it, when do I stop taking it, do I have a serious illness that needs to be considered etc. But, you are too panicky and scared to ask these questions. This is lacking empathy from both of you. To maintain a solid physician-patient relationship, you (as the patient) would need to get to know your doctor very well. Always talk to him for any concern you got (even if it is just for 5 minutes). Talking to him respectfully is the only way to ensure he responds back. Over the years, I have learnt to hold random parts of your body like you are in pain in front of your doctor so he or she can somewhat feel connected with you. This is the start of what you can expect a journey.

Medical Professionalism would include incorporating care, and readiness to put the worries of the patient above one’s own. Practitioning in medicine should promote caliber that every doctor needs in their genome. Recorded in the past few years of research, “patients whose doctors listen to them and demonstrate an understanding of their concerns comply more with those doctors’ orders, are more satisfied with their treatment, and enjoy better health”. This signals that healthcare providers with greater empathy means that he or she reduces the stress freight of the forbearer. A certain individual need to be exhibit empathy to be an awesome healthcare practitioner because lacking empathy would be very destructive to the patient and they may begin to dislike you as a whole.

Empathy is not really a skill that could be developed but it comes naturally. It has been proven that patients who receive higher doses of empathy from their doctor tend to have a healthy immune system. Well in this case, empathy is significant as it can have many health benefits not just for the patient, but also the physician. Medical Schools need to train students in a sense that they will often appreciate at what they do. This starts by adding empathy to the curriculum. As mentioned by “Is there Hardening of the Heart During Medical School?”, Empathy “is one of the most highly desirable professional traits that medical education should promote because empathic communication skills…possesses the quality of emotional empathy as being better caregivers”.

A healthcare provider may have cognitive skills but is yet to be considered “effective” because he or she misses the linkage of patient contentment. A study was conducted by Newton and his colleagues to determine if “vicarious empathy decreases as students’ progress through medical school”. What they found out was interesting. Results showed the empathy decreased after first year of medical school because of stress/anxiety. Women choosing “core specialties” was loaded with packs of empathy because their relationship with patients are calmer than that of men. This tells us gender plays an immense factor during physician-patient relationship. Medical Schools now provide courses where they emphasize students about “empathic communication skills”.

A major Solution to decreasing in empathy over the course of medical education is “the use of role playing”. This will help students widen the space of appreciation because it will better their social skills. However, too much empathy just makes you become another person and overheats your relationship with doctors which is why empathy is not always a good thing.

The Drawbacks of empathy are that you become lonely and sad while in other’s shoe. This affects not only the person you are empathizing with but you yourself are putting in a danger by affecting your mental health. Also, being extremely empathetic means that you are undoubtedly emotionally manipulated. People can take clear advantage of you becoming so emotionally empathetic. In a world we live in today, it’s great to be empathetic, but it’s also great to know when to be empathetic. Practitioners should definitely place limits on their empathy as they should not get too empathetic with their patients as this may lead to some serious trouble. If the practitioner is too innocent, taking advantage is piece of cake. So, it’s good not to cross the borderline of empathy.

You should use empathy in appropriate situations. Never use empathy when meeting an unknown stranger because you just never know… As Paul Bloom explains, “Empathy has some unfortunate features-it is parochial, narrow-minded, and innumerate”. Parochial meaning it is very conservative and innumerate meaning lack of mathematic skills. It’s interesting how Bloom describes empathy because it is no way near the definition we are used to. As he also mentioned, “Empathy betrays us only when we take it as a moral guide”. Even though Bloom hardly relates empathy to medical education, he brings out great reasons for why empathy is not always a good thing and it “can pull us in the wrong direction”. The number of victims hardly matters when distinguishing one’s empathy. Imagine you read a paper saying five hundred students just died in a hurricane, but you later find out it was actually thirty thousand. You obviously feel more pain but that is not because of your empathy, it’s because of rationality. Politics play a huge role over whom we should (liberals or conservatives) empathize with. This creates immense debate and disagreements and is a moment where you decide who you are for and against which leads to even more hostility.

To these ends, Empathy can be distinguished as good and bad. As Newton explains, we should give significance to hearten all individual from the predominant level of comprehension to a grown mind state to be empathic, so that they can demonstrate their happiness, sadness, joy, suffering, and find ways to tackle hopeless situations in the subsequent years to come. Now, medical schools have given much consideration about empathy and are implementing by the use of role-playing and courses available in empathy/humanities. Every individual has at least a short amount of empathy and past events can surely affect your empathy, but it’s way better to reveal what’s in you then constructing heights of lava inside. There are huge advantages of empathy in a correlation between two and conveyance influence. You can see the world from a better equitable standpoint. On the other hand, Paul Bloom opposes Newton in that he views empathy as it will lead us “into the wrong direction”. He distinguishes not only there are advantages of being empathetic, but also the drawbacks. Having seen both side of the spectrum enables us to get an overview of where you fall into. This would greatly enhance the world we live in and will have definite outcomes.

11 February 2020

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