Empathy In Health Care

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Throughout the generations of human history, the medical field has learnt to leave behind certain ill practices and to take up the cause of other worthy medical applications. All in the attempt to better the care of patients, and processes that healthcare practitioners follow. One such practice is that of clinical empathy. Empathy in itself can be found in all areas of life and to the layperson it most often means ‘the ability to walk in someone’s else’s shoes’. To medical scholars it is something with a much deeper meaning. And in recent years it has been a topic that has been pulled apart and dissected by intellectuals, with the goal to discover its true meaning and the varied implications it may have within the health workforce.

The origin
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If this is done to a high level, then the information gathered is highly prized, as it is an important step in the diagnosing and formulation of a treatment plan specific to the patient (Ogle et al. 2013, pp. 824-831). This further reveals the two parts that encapsulates clinical empathy, that being “visceral attunement and conceptual understanding” (Hanson 2007, p. 2). It is where “we sense and we infer what is happening with the other person” (Hanson 2007, p. 2), allowing for a constructive and effective doctor-patient relationship to be created.

The components of empathy themselves are extensive in the explanation of how health care givers are able to implement empathy into their daily practices. If these components are met, a healthy therapeutic relationship can be established between patients and the doctor and/or nurse. Doctors and nurses are set out to follow a core set of shared aims or purposes in forming an empathetic, therapeutic relationship between themselves and their patient. Including:
1. “initiating supportive, interpersonal communication in order to understand the perceptions and needs of the patient,
2. empowering the patient to learn, or cope more affectively with his or her environment;
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Although they are similar in certain aspects, they greatly differ in others. Both sympathy and empathy allows an outsider the opportunity to witness the events that are occurring in the life of another individual. But where empathy allows you to take an observant backseat, sympathy allows you to experience exactly what the other person is suffering through your own relatable experiences.
Sympathy occurs when a person imagines themselves experiencing the same emotion that another individual is experiencing from an event that has caused them to react immediately and unexpectedly (Ioannidou & Konstantikaki 2008, pg. 199). That is, sympathy is where you experience feelings of pity over the misfortune of others. Within healthcare settings, there is often a blurred line between the two, as frequently medical practitioners may have experienced similar incidents of trauma that their patient is suffering, allowing them to sympathize with the patient as well as empathize. Sympathy should still be treated with caution as more consideration to the patient’s condition should be paid attention to and not the practitioner’s memories and/or emotions felt by their similar experiences. Hence, empathy is the better practice to follow as it eliminates this particular risk of the physician ‘taking over the spotlight’ when consulting and/or working with their various

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