Throughout medical school, we develop and gain new skills based on the experiences we come across and learn from, building up our development of compassion and teamwork which is essential for our futures as doctors. Here we will be exploring the ideas of compassion and teamwork, what would happen with an imbalance of them and how they are specifically important to us and our futures.
What does it mean to be compassionate? Compassion is a feeling that is evoked in the prescence of someone that is suffering, whereby you want to act and relieve the suffering the individual is experiencing (Medical Dictionary, n.d). When admitted to hospital, patients come in with illnesses as well as being distilled with confusion and fear. In response to the multitude of distresses, compassion is needed to be conveyed by the doctor in order to relieve the individual’s problems (Department of health, 2013). Compassion is a way of being able to integrate our own morals and instinct into the situation, rather than just focusing on the science, solving one problem and moving on. Personally, especially through placement and SGTs do we get to explore the concept of compassion, understanding more about the integration of compassion into both our daily lives and in a working environment. This also involves the idea that compassion is a human instinct that can also be developed throughout medical school, be it through communication, teamwork or listening (Keltner, 2004). We are given difficult scenarios and students work to explore the ways of being able to provide support for patients, learning how compassion comes with consistent communication and interaction whether it be verbal or non-verbal such as pauses or touch. For example, my mother had been rushed to hospital and I was in a state of distress and shock. Upon explaining to a friend, we saw eachother the next day and discussed the situation and there would be times where she would hug me or hold my hand. To me this was her letting me know that she was there to support me in my situation, emphasised by small interactions that I still to this day, really appreciate. She was patient and listened to me giving small gestures of support when I really needed it, linking back to the idea that compassion is not only effective communication.
Especially in the future is this relevant to be able to provide the best quality of care for patients as these skills are directly transferrable, but rather exploring the ideas, compassion contributes to the treatment of patients.
Through compassion, it is more likely that a patient can freely express their thoughts and worries, which is needed for the doctor to be able to diagnose a patient. Likewise, it is shown that doctors are less likely to make errors in providing their treatment when being more compassionate, as their focus is on a patient and so there is a less likely chance of malpractice (Developing compassion and empathy as a medical student, 2014). A case study was taken, looking at the differences in responses of bereaving individuals to doctors who showed compassion or lack of (Crowther, Wilson, Horton Lloyd-Williams, 2013). The study showed that those who were shown compassion, gave more positive responses in that they were being supported by the doctors whereas, for example when a nurse spoke ill of a patient, where the family could hear (demonstration of a lack of compassion) there was lack of trust between patient and medical team, which became detrimental towards the patients’ health.
There are aspects in compassion whereby emotional involvement is necessary, however too much emotion may take over a doctor’s judgement which results to a multitude of symptoms that degrade the doctor’s health. In the UK, mental health issues and stress alone contribute to being one of the “biggest problems in occupational health” (Coleking, 2015) and if the doctor is neither mentally nor physically fit, then the patients’ health is put at risk as a result of compassion fatigue. Therefore, it is a doctor’s responsibility to be able to find balance between clinical outcomes and compassion to bring about maximum patient satisfaction. Doctors also must be aware that every patient is different, meaning the levels of compassion patients require will be different amongst individuals as there are also instances whereby the patient has prioritised facts and outcomes rather than compassion (Cole, 2016).