Championing Compassion in Health Care

The International Journal of Rural and Remote health are championing the training of compassion in health care.

The editorial reports: “In recent years attention has been drawn to the fact that compassion towards the patient seems to have decreased, with events at certain hospitals in the UK, Greece and elsewhere showing alarming gaps in the humanity of the care offered. Although there is limited evidence regarding the effects of compassionate care, it is thought that patients who are treated with understanding and compassion may recover faster and manage chronic disorders more effectively. Patient anxiety might also be reduced as a result of compassionate care3.

A recent UK Department of Health Report (2009)4, states that in providing compassionate care:

…we respond with humanity and kindness to each person’s pain, distress, anxiety or need. We search for the things we can do, however small, to give comfort and relieve suffering. We find time for those we serve and work alongside. We do not wait to be asked, because we care…

Until the current time, much work in the field of compassion has focussed on hospital settings, or more urbanised primary care settings. However, the importance of compassionate care is clearly relevant to all healthcare sectors, and we currently invite discussion on the importance of compassionate care in rural and remote areas. Recent efforts by Robin Youngson, anaesthetist and co-founder of the New Zealand Centre for Compassion in Healthcare5, have focussed on promoting compassionate care to wider international communities. Youngson’s work with the Indigenous people of Aotearoa has uncovered fundamental spiritual traditions, crucial to understanding the health needs and beliefs of this population, particularly in relation to the closeness of the family, and the belief that suffering is ‘the illusion of separateness’. With a passion for offering personal service to patients, Youngson’s experience suggests that5:

…when practitioners develop the skills to bring open-hearted compassion to their patients, then the effectiveness of care greatly increases and our patients and families feel safe and cared for…”

Here is their full editorial.

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