compassionate communication


Compassion is one of my favourite topics to talk about at health conferences. If I want to be really outrageous, I also talk to them about having love for their patients.

I like to say:
Compassion comes from taking the time to understand the patient’s perspective – and that comes through listening to their story.

It was Patient and Family Centred Care Week last week. As part of the celebration for the week, I had the good fortune to see Jaeun Macen, a chaplain at the Foothills Hospital, present about Compassionate Communication. I was heartened to see so many hospital staff in the audience of the Telehealth session. I have a feeling these are the staff that already practice compassionate communication, but no matter – hopefully they took their learnings from the session and continued to be role models for students and other health professionals. Of course, any patients and families who have contact with compassionate health professionals greatly benefit from their approach.

I can’t adequately capture Jaeun’s entire presentation – she’s a super speaker if you ever get a chance to see her.  She spoke about compassion in a very clear, rationale way, and complemented her words with practical case studies. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

• Empathy is a piece of compassion. But with compassion, we are compelled to act. • Patient and family centred care is impossible without compassion. • What if instead of managing the difficult patient, we care for the suffering patient? • You cannot care for a patient unless you have a relationship with them. • Always attend to the human story behind the suffering. • We have to acknowledge our own suffering in order to communicate compassionately. • How much do we know about patient’s story before we label them?

These are such lovely sentiments.  What happens to health professionals who get hardened to the compassionate approach?  After hearing Jaeun’s presentation, I think this happens because they don’t possess compassion for themselves.  Loving ourselves is the first step, because love always wins.


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