David Brown experienced three weeks that he was unable to move his body due to a ruptured pancreas. The failure of so many of his organs required that he be on life support and the only fully functioning part of him was his mind. He heard physicians and family members interact for three weeks, unable to say a word or communicate.
In his words, “I could tell within seconds whether they (physician or nurse) were in the moment and actually caring about me.”
The challenge for this past week was to choose one patient a day and put yourself completely in their shoes.
Now some of you might wonder if empathy is detrimental. It’s easier to be numb to those you care for because if your emotional state is tied too closely to their’s you become a detriment to the situation. On the contrary though, when we empathize with our patients it doesn’t mean their problems go home with us; but it does mean that those short moments you share with them on a daily basis, are full of understanding. Empathy doesn’t have to bring you down, but I assure you that it will have the long term effects of making your days matter more, and finding greater fulfillment in those 12 or 18 hour shifts.
Good luck this week!