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Building empathy among the people of an Emergency Department: Staff and patients, a two-way interaction

By Matt Luther, Fergus Gardiner and Bernadette Brady


Background: The sharing of a story, related to a co-worker or patient, is believed to lead to an increased personalisation of the empathy message. Previous clinical interventions aimed at improving empathy, primarily considered one stakeholder and were often patient-centric. Objective: The aim of this study was to test whether an intervention consisting of audio clips concerning the experiences of the people of an Emergency Department, can lead to increases in measured empathy.Methods: To promote a multidisciplinary approach, the researchers included patients (including their significant others) and clinical staff in the study design. The researchers recorded interviews focusing on the participants lived experience within the Emergency Department (ED).The audio recordings aimed to capture the perspective of: working in the ED (including the multidisciplinary team), being a patient in the ED and being a significant other in the ED (the people of an Emergency Department). This design enabled sharing of the lived experience of the participants, thus encouraging empathetic feelings bilaterally, between the patient and clinician. Results: Participants indicated that after listening to a story, 93.2% (n=55) felt they had a better understanding of the situation experienced by emergency department staff, patients or their visitors/significant others. Furthermore, 88.3% (n=53) of participants indicated that their empathy towards the people of the ED increased. Participants were asked to indicate their ability to empathise before listening to a recording, with a resulting weighted average of 3.25/5. This was then compared to their weighted average result, following listening to an audio recording of 4.17/5. Overall, the participant results were highly significant t(6.1174)=0.0001, p=0.001. Conclusion: Audio recordings, demonstrating patient and healthcare clinician experiences, from a 360° perspective, are an effective way to share the familiarities of the people of an ED, promoting an ability in the listener to ‘walk in another’s shoes’

Topics: Clinical communication, communication, compassion, detachment, emergency care, empathy, humanities, measurement, person-centered healthcare, sympathy
Publisher: The University of Buckinham Press
Year: 2017
DOI identifier: 10.5750/ejpch.v5i3.1319
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