This is my first post for the #pht402 professional ethics course that I’m participating in for the next few weeks. In order to stimulate thinking each participant in the course was required to engage with materials which can be found at topic for the first week.
Before interacting with the required pieces for this week, I thought I’d do a bit of critical thinking on the matter, thinking about what I believed empathy is and well as, if as student physiotherapists there is a different approach to treating patients.
My first thought was-everyone is different and many people do not hunger for a human interaction that requires connection (perhaps like some people need in their clinical practice). I’ve had the privilege of being a silent observer when it comes to my fellow (student) colleagues, I’ve had the ability to noticed that some students search for a sense of connection with their patients and others prefer to take a professional stance, preferring not to linger on the emotional aspects of the patients but rather look at the patient with a sense of a “problem list”. I do not believe that the latter group of students have no empathy. An interesting blog to read on this notion is Um’rs (plus he has a very conversational style of writing, so that’s always a plus).
Empathy has a time and a place in professional practice. I’ve noticed that some students have an “overly motherly” approach to treating patients, this often happens when the patient has a rigorous medical history of too many ailments to mention and a need to over-compensate arises. Many students fall into this intermediate zone where they show concern and understanding but then get “down and dirty “to treat their patients. Some students draw this thick, clearly visible from 150m, line of professional distance-this works for them. I always like to have a little chat with my patients, establish some ground rules, and let them know we are on this journey together and that they should delight in their successes and be free to share any concerns.
What are your thoughts? How do you establish a connection with your patients? Do you think a connection is necessary?
The article What is empathy and can empathy be taught? put a great deal of my thoughts into perspective. It speaks about, understanding, sharing, listening and reacting appropriately whilst being self-aware of both your experiences and how you are perceived by others.
Lastly, I’d like to leave everyone with this quote, which comes from a woman who showed empathy without thinking, it was a natural response for her. This quote is appropriate of giving of oneself to your patients (even when they test you with non-compliance), to your family or even in your working life and career when tasks seem to drown you.
“Give until it hurts, and when it hurts give some more
And keep on giving”- Mother Teresa