While the primary activity during a clinical encounter between a healthcare professional and a patient is medical care, a more patient-centered approach that pays attention to the patients views is increasingly becoming popular in the nursing field. The concept of empathy in nursing is such. After a comprehensive analysis of the articles on the subject, I have realized that I fall into the category of people who view empathy from its literal meaning feeling within, an aspect that considers the emotive aspect only, which is not true (Mercer & Reynolds, 2002). This view hinders health practitioners from reaping the maximum benefits of the empathy in nursing concept because they fear to get burnouts from too much emotional involvement.
According to Morse et al. (1992), empathy comprises of three extra dimensions; moral, behavioral and cognitive. Out of the four mentioned, behavioral, and cognitive aspects of empathy are the main points of focus in the clinical practice. Cognitive empathy allows a health care professional to recognize and understand their patients mental state unlike emotive, which attracts the emotional response. The behavioral dimension, on the other hand, allows the clinician to capture the patients perspective on a subject and be able to communicate the understanding effectively. This is the active component and it involves checking back with the patient to ensure they are getting an accurate understanding. Generally, what I have gathered from the readings is that empathy is all about adjusting communications to extend care not only to the physical aspect of the patient but also the psychosocial for positive outcomes and satisfaction (Rieffe, 2010).
I have also learned that though the majority of the individuals in the nursing profession are likely to be compassionate caregivers naturally, cultivating the ability to listen to others without planning a response highly boosts empathy. Personally, I cannot tell whether the compassion I possess is inborn or has been induced by the religious environment I have grown up in. The Catholic faith and teachings have etched empathy values into my life since I was young and even played a big part in my decision to pursue a career in nursing. The faith has taught me to uphold empathy as a core of the moral life. The doctrine that when we should always offer our shoulders and hearts to ease the pain and emotional burden of others has been a guide to almost every relationship I have made with people. I am also fully aware that when empathy is over embraced, it can be an enemy of peace. These values that the Catholic faith has instilled make the empathy nursing even more practical than ever.
Though I have found myself listening to some of my friends in emotional agony, until now I consider myself more of a beneficiary than a giver of the empathy nursing. Last year a close relative passed on through suicide and the demise sent me into a serious depression. The depression was so intense that when I finally visited the healthcare, the doctor clinically diagnosed me with a depressive disorder. Apart from the antidepressant drugs that the doctor prescribed, the exceptional help from the nursing person assigned to me greatly helped in getting out of the black hole. Having lost a sense of self-regard, the nurse cultivated a relationship with me that was based on trust and empathy. Her empathy encouraged me to share my thoughts out and in the process; I was able to gain a positive sense of self-regard. Reflecting back after recovering from the depression, I noticed that the nursing person was very careful in how she responded after telling her what I was feeling. It was respectful and encouraged, even more, opening up. She refuted any negative comment or behavior that were self-defeating and could gently oppose the negative assumptions with alternative positive perspectives. She could point out every little milestone I made in the healing journey which made me feel good about myself. The encouragement of appreciating my relationships, achievements, and health made the medication prescribed just an augment to the whole process but the core treatment was made efficient through the relationship the nurse created with me. After that experience, I now value the concept of empathy nursing more than ever.
Myself having already benefited from the concept, I will highly capitalize on its strength to give my clients the best experience out of my career. I will be more focused on gaining the trust of the client and giving them a listening ear when they want to express themselves. After reading about the concept, I have also realized that the approach has limitations too. During the practice, I will be more conscious of my own feelings when nursing my clients to avoid the burnouts that result from too much emotional attachment to the patient. Having learned that effective empathy is focused on the cognitive component, which can be easily acquired through training, I will continuously enhance the skill to get the maximum positive outcomes of the concept in my career as a nurse.
Mercer, S. W., & Reynolds, W. J. (2002). Empathy and quality of care. Br J Gen Pract, 52(Suppl), S9-12.
Morse, J. M., Anderson, G., Bottorff, J. L., Yonge, O., O'Brien, B., Solberg, S. M., & McIlveen, K. H. (1992). Exploring empathy: a conceptual fit for nursing practice?. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 24(4), 273-280.
Rieffe, C., Ketelaar, L., & Wiefferink, C. H. (2010). Assessing empathy in young children: Construction and validation of an Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue). Personality and individual differences, 49(5), 362-367.
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