Turning Empathy into Compassion for Our Patients and Ourselves!

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523802_3444701590279_1231177083_nDr. Robin Youngson, an anaesthetist by trade but is also a leader in the compassionate healthcare movement.  (I’m on board and maybe you’ll join!)  He was interviewed recently on Radio New Zealand (RNZ) on “The importance of being empathic“.  It is only 20 minutes and a great mix of inspiring story, ideas,  and supportive research.

An act of compassion for another human being is an act of compassion for ourselves. It strengthens our hearts”. Click To Tweet

It is an excellent interview with many take-homes for us!

For me, I love how he distinguishes between between empathy and compassion beginning at about the 12-13 min mark.  He’s acknowledging how empathy can contribute to burnout.  Makes sense, right?  After all as we interface with people with tragedy and loss; fear, grief, and anger are common feelings we are empathizing about.  He’s suggesting we have to take another step towards compassion.  “…if we add loving kindness and a desire to reduce that suffering in another human being that turns empathy into compassion and what we know from the latest neuroscience is that turns on brain circuits associated with positive emotions’….’an act of compassion for another human being is an act of compassion for ourselves.  It strengthens our hearts”.

He also goes on to explain how important supportive workplaces are to healthcare professionals in ensuring that we are able to tap into our natural abilities to empathize and be compassionate and that research shows that , “…90% of human behavior is determined by  the environment in which people find themselves….”.  Research about the current status of workplace cultures he advises, and no surprise to us, “…not very encouraging…”.

If you listen, let me know what you think!

And please keep in mind, applied or medical improv is a fun way to explore and develop empathy and compassion. There are all sorts of playful ways to help us experience, trust,  and grow relationships that in turn contribute to healthy workplace cultures where kindness, compassion, and respect are the norm!  Please contact me if you’d like to learn more about the serious play medical improv has to offer!  beth@bethboynton.com.


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What are your thoughts?