Empathy as a Core Value of Healthcare

Leadership should not underestimate the positive impact active empathy between co-workers could have on their organization. Human beings need to have others to identify with them. In fact, I believe our human nature cries out for this. Empathy ties us to our common humanity and protects us from judgment. Judgment often divides us in the workplace. Judgment, in contrast to empathy, works against team participation and team-building. Empathy connects us to our intuitive being. When feeling empathy toward another person or being on the receiving end of empathy, it builds a connection between individuals that can craft feelings of trust and acceptance. It is as if a person is able to perceive and understand another person’s world. This is important to understand in looking at work processes and flow and the impact it has on teamwork.
Working with this value of empathy is the first building block to the foundation of excellence in healthcare. I am aware that empathy may seem like a simple idea or cliché, but remember the goal is to not just to understand empathy, but to have employees model behaviors of empathy toward their fellow worker and to patient they care for on a daily basis. The busy atmosphere of healthcare today may create doubt that a highly empathetic environment could possibly exist. But I assure you; I have led this transformation and know that an empathetic work environment is possible through leadership, alignment, and personal development of all colleagues.
Empathy as a Practice
Empathy practices must be intentional and start at the top of the organization in order for empathy to trickle down the chain of command. If the senior leaders are not displaying empathy, then employees will follow their lead. Imagine how a truly empathetic leader could change a workplace. When you are on the receiving end of empathy you may express thankfulness, joy, sadness, or appreciation. Employees that I have personally observed receiving empathy express feelings of acceptance, caring, and value by others. When this is practiced there seems to be a strengthening of connectivity to people or the organizations. For an example, when an employee observes a kind behavior, there could be an initiative in the organization that the employee is recognized for this behavior. This reinforces the behavior with the employee and also builds connectivity between the employee and the organization.

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