“I connected more, not less; cared more, not less; leaned in rather than pulled back. And that was when the fog of burnout began to lift.”[i]
These thoughts are based upon research done by Dr. Stephen Trzeciak from his book “Compassionomics.”[ii] One study showed that simply 40 seconds of compassion where the patients received a message of empathy, kindness and support resulted in significantly decreased measurable anxiety levels for the patients. The further benefit is that when physicians connect with patients, the physician becomes happier and more fulfilled.
I realized this benefit in my own recent case surrounding the successful care of a critical patient with a great outcome. (You are right- we don’t always have great outcomes- so we need to hold onto those memories when it does happen.) It was a very stressful resuscitation in a previously healthy adult male who’s life is forever changed. In recalling the events of the case, it was the discussion with the wife that left me most satisfied. Myself and the entire team made an effort to show her compassion- to the point that she insisted we “get back in there” to help her husband. Spending the 40 seconds to help her understand the situation and explaining that we had an entire team working for his health and survival gave us all a sense that we had made a difference not only for the patient but also for the family. We also had a debrief with the entire team to give everyone a chance to express emotions as well as the opportunity to review the technical aspects of the care we provided. I do believe making the attempt to show compassion to both the family and the entire team resulted in a better experience for all involved.
Think about the last time you truly connected with a patient or family member- even for a brief period- and how did that make you feel?
“Look around you and see those in need of compassion and give your 40 seconds of compassion, see how it transforms your experience.” – Stephen Trzeciak, MD, MPH
-Mark Elliott, MD, MBA