What Makes for a Compassionate Patient-Caregiver Relationship?
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
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