Igniting the Passion for Compassion; Empathy in Action
Compassion fatigue, burnout, lack of empathy training in support of members of the health care interdisciplinary team inhibit compassionate care delivery and coordination.
A systematic literature review was conducted, using PsychINFO, PubMed, Cochran, NCBI, CINAHL, and Proquest for peer reviewed articles published within the last five years (2014-2019). Studies were selected for reporting: compassion fatigue, compassion cultivation, empathy, neuroplasticity, mindfulness, Consultation and Relational Empathy Measure (CARE), and patient outcomes and satisfaction.
More than half of physicians report they do not have enough time to be compassionate when engaging with a patient or family. Almost half of nurses report compassion fatigue, and well over half of therapists and social workers report secondary trauma syndrome from patient experiences. Depending on specialty, the majority of health care professionals report not having an opportunity to debrief and connect with other members of the care team after a traumatic event.
Regardless of profession, the majority of interdisciplinary team members do not have specialized training to address compassion fatigue and secondary trauma. Addressing the compassion fatigue with compassion cultivation exercises, education, and training, impacts the neural networks in the brain regions associated with positive emotion and affect. Compassion cultivation reduces the psychosomatic effects of empathy experienced by health care professionals and provides positive neural feedback, reducing compassion fatigue and increasing compassionate care. Compassion, empathy, and trauma informed education lead to changes in functional neural plasticity of the brain of the practitioner, thus increasing their ability to practice compassionate care.
When practitioners, regardless of specialty or profession, experience an empathic response and respond with compassionate care, patients respond more favorably to education and engagement. There is a marked reduction in health care cost and utilization and patients tend to recover faster from acute occurrences based on therapeutic compassionate relationships with their health care team.
Supportive education and compassion cultivation for practitioners is a building block of effective patient-centered interprofessional practice