What Makes for a Compassionate Patient-Caregiver Relationship?

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Abstract:

Background: During Summer 2005, the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center asked hospitals to hold rounds to discuss the topic, "What Makes for a Compassionate Patient-Caregiver Relationship?" Review of questionnaires and transcripts of the rounds held at 54 hospitals in 21 states yielded three major categories: communication, common ground, and respect for individuality.

Communication: Suggestions to improve compassionate care often focused on style and content. Rounds attendees felt that compassionate care also depends on imparting medical facts in a clear and useful manner to patients—often difficult for complex medical issues.

Common Ground: Compassionate care depends on showing empathy for a patient's illness experience no matter what his or her background. Rounds participants felt that caregivers could make a conscious choice to care deeply for patients. Sharing personal information with patients and admitting mistakes were key methods for identifying common ground.

Treating the Patient as an Individual: Compassionate care requires striking an individualized balance between providing guidance and allowing autonomy to achieve shared consensus, especially with complex information.

A Prescription for Change: Most interventions target students yet do not continually reinforce compassion. Advocates for compassionate care should instead treat lack of compassion not as an acute trauma but as a chronic condition requiring a lifetime of continuous support, regular guidance, repeated reinforcement, specific targeted outcomes, and more innovative care programs.

Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: May 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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