“Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’” ~ Dr. Brené Brown
As part of our new Design Thinking in Residency curriculum, yesterday we explored the topic of Empathy that included exercises in emotion recognition and perspective-taking. Design thinking is a creative approach to problem-solving and Empathy is the paradigm’s first phase focused on understanding the user’s experience, insights, values, motivations, and feelings. Empathizing is also instrumental during design’s Discovery process where we unearth and investigate users’ needs, desires, and barriers that challenge them.
In medicine, research indicates that Empathy may improve physicians’ clinical competence, emotional regulation, and feelings of wellbeing (Hojat et al, 2002; Shanafelt et al, 2005); in addition to patient satisfaction, health outcomes, and adherence to medical recommendations or regimens (Blatt et al, 2010; Derksen et al, 2013; Hojat et al, 2002; Reiss et al, 2013; Krasner et al, 2009). Empathy may also reduce medical-legal risk; healthcare costs; and physicians’ depersonalization and burnout (Epstein et al, 2005; Levison et al, 1997; Moore et al, 2000; Thomas et al, 2007).
Empathy and employing the user-centred approach are described in our CanMED Roles and UBC Family Practice Curriculum. Our session emphasized the following objectives:
- Demonstrate effective empathic communication skills including active listening, verbal and non-verbal skills, and expression of empathy.
- Build positive, compassionate therapeutic relationships.
- Use a patient-centred approach in the care of patients and families.
- Analyze the communities or environments that impact patient health.
We followed this session with a visit to Abbotsford’s first adult hospice, Holmberg House, conveniently located near Abbotsford Regional Hospital & Cancer Centre. Greeted by Holmerg House’s Director Rob Kuehl and Counsellor Dr. Lakhbir Jassal, our physicians learned about the program’s services provided and emerging research projects in Palliative Care. We toured the facility and gained a better understanding as to how designing with intention influences the relationship between person and place. The space also expresses the community’s connection, generosity, and support of residents and their families. We were able to observe how Palliative Care teams are embracing innovation as they rethink and redesign environments that offer the amenities and comforts of home while accommodating for residents’ psychosocial and medical needs.
We appreciate Holmberg House allowing us the opportunity to explore their unique context and in helping us comprehend the end-of-life experience.