Examples Of Empathy In Nursing

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Ernest Hemingway once stated, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen” (Cowley, 1949, p. 90). Understanding that listening entails far more than simply hearing another, Hemingway realized that comprehending another’s message involved the use of empathy. By putting oneself into another’s shoes and experiencing their world, empathy allows for greater understanding (Hojat et al., 2011), and therefore, enables one to “listen”. However, the concept of empathy encompasses far more than simply being able to decode one’s message. Defining and explaining empathy, outlining its implications for nursing practice and patient care, and reflecting on its personal influence in my life, will outline the concept of empathy, and highlight…show more content…
Defined in general use as “the ability to share another person's feelings and emotions as if they were your own” (Collins English Dictionary, n.d.), empathy is a relatively simple concept to comprehend. However, the definition of empathy in nursing is distinct, with the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO, 2006) adding to the basic definition of empathy with the statement, “Empathy involves the nurse being able to attend to the subjective experience of the client and validate that his/her understanding is an accurate reflection of the client’s experience” (p. 21). This differs from the general definition, as it is not merely the ability of putting oneself into another’s world and experiencing their feelings, but also validating this feeling with the client, ensuring that the experience was accurate. Providing an even more comprehensive definition, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO, 2006) describes empathy as, “the expression of understanding, validating and resonating with the meaning that the health care experience holds for the client. In nursing, empathy includes appropriate emotional distance from the client to ensure objectivity and an appropriate…show more content…
However, the question of whether or not empathy equates to better patient health remains. Proving that empathy does directly impact health, La Monica, Wolf, Madea, and Oberst, (1987) found that significantly reduced anxiety, depression, and hostility were observed in patients being cared for by nurses exhibiting high levels of empathy. Moreover, in a study overviewing the effectiveness of empathy on patient compliance and satisfaction, affective empathy resulting in a physician-patient partnership, was found to be the greatest factor in increasing compliance and satisfaction (Kim, Kaplowitz, & Johnston, 2004). Additionally, Bourgault et al. (2015) found that in nurses, higher levels of empathy was associated with greater psychological well-being, proving that empathy does not only benefit the patient, but the practitioner as well. Recently, studies highlighting the quantifiable benefits of empathy have come out with Canale et al. (2012) finding that physicians who scored higher on the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) had significantly reduced rates of occurrence of disease complications in diabetic patients. Furthermore, physicians who scored high on the JSE decreased the odds of complications in diabetic patients by 41% (Canale et al., 2012). Additionally, Hojat et al. (2011)

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