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Melissa Thompson on How Empathy in Cancer Care Can Give Patients Dignity

Empathy is the root of dignity for patients, and healthcare providers need to consciously adjust their communication styles to demonstrate that empathy, according to Melissa Thompson, MBA, healthcare strategist, patient, and self-advocate. Some examples include not discussing the patient without including them and using inclusive language that brings the patient and provider together.


Empathy is the root of dignity for patients, and healthcare providers need to consciously adjust their communication styles to demonstrate that empathy, according to Melissa Thompson, MBA, healthcare strategist, patient, and self-advocate. Some examples include not discussing the patient without including them and using inclusive language that brings the patient and provider together.

Transcript (slightly modified)

How can clinicians ensure that they are providing patients with dignity? What does dignity mean to you?

Empathy’s rooted in communication, and unfortunately the healthcare system I think, elitism is baked into communication. We make calls, and nurses call up to physicians and they call down to housekeeping, and that communication trickles down to the patient. Having conversations around patients about them without including them when they’re in the same room makes us feel alienated.

Also, my oncologist is wonderful. When we talk, she sits across from me and she’s never taking notes, she’s not on a computer, she’s looking at me. And she never says “we.” She doesn’t say “we believe,” she says “I believe” or “I think.” When she says “we,” she kind of puts a verbal wedge between myself and her as the institution. When she says “I” and “you” and “me” and “we” meaning her and I, it’s really an act of empathy.

Empathy’s a verb in healthcare; empathy, I think, is the root of dignity.

 
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