Compassionate Patient Care: The One Thing Doctors Can’t Fix
Doctors fix things for a living. Which works great for physical ailments. But there’s one thing doctors can’t fix. Feelings. This is when compassionate patient care makes all the difference. How does your doctor handle;
Anxiety about how you will cope during recovery?
Worry about how you will look after surgery?
Fear of losing mobility, time, and energy?
Anger about not taking better care of yourself?
Here’s the thing about feelings that confuses many doctors;
Feelings are real and important, but they aren’t broken and they don’t need to be fixed.
So, what’s a fixer supposed to do with feelings? I work with a lot of medical providers and medical directors. Here’s what I see all too often on the topic of compassionate patient care:
- Awkwardly avoid feelings because you can’t fix them and don’t know what to do.
- Ignore feelings, telling yourself that’s not your job and you don’t have training.
- Dismiss or minimize feelings since you don’t think they are relevant.
Here’s a secret for compassionate patient care. Just because you can’t fix feelings doesn’t mean you can’t provide helpful treatment. Avoiding or minimizing them only hurts your clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction scores.
When it comes to uncomfortable and negative feelings, the most therapeutic thing you can do as a fixer is to stop viewing feelings as something to be fixed.
Instead, listen, validate and empathize. You’ll be surprised how much difference it makes when you hear someone’s feelings and show you care about what they are going through.
Fix what you can. With the things you can’t fix, walk through it with your patient. Long after they forget how great a surgeon you are, they will remember whether you sat with them when they were scared, empathized when they were anxious, walked toward them with compassion when there was conflict, and celebrated with them when things went well.
Compassion works for all types of fixers, not just doctors.