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Why Empathy Is Crucial in Nursing

When patients undergo treatment, they may feel anxious, overwhelmed and even terrified by the process. In some cases, the prognosis is grim, which may negatively affect patients mentally and emotionally. Nurses know that empathetic care can help alleviate suffering while a patient fights an aggressive disease, goes through a complicated surgery or endures a lengthy recovery.

What Is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to place oneself in another person’s situation and look at their condition through their perspectives, emotions, actions and reactions.

Why Is Empathy in Nursing Important?

Empathy helps nurses build a trusting connection with those in their care by focusing on the patient’s point of view. This strengthens communication because nurses can gain an understanding of how patients are coping and what they are experiencing. Thus, empathy is essential to promoting a dialogue with patients about their discomfort, worries and preferences.

Is Empathy a Crucial Part of Patient Care?

Yes. Nurses who express empathy show that they are committed to all of a patient’s needs rather than just their vital signs, symptoms and medical status. Numerous studies have concluded that empathy is a major component to quality care. Here are several studies that demonstrate a correlation between empathy and improvements in patient outcomes.

How Does Empathy Benefit Patients?

The findings from studies have found that empathy enhances patient care. The benefits of incorporating empathy into the nursing practice include:

  • Improved patient outcomes
  • Boosts in patient satisfaction
  • More effective communication
  • Higher rates of patient compliance

How Can Nurses Practice Empathy?

Nurses who incorporate empathy into their practice can make a difference. They can calm a patient, ease their pain and lessen their burdens through simple changes and gestures. To incorporate empathy into the delivery of care, nurses may want to ask themselves these questions to become more acquainted with their patient’s state of mind.

  • How would I live with my patient’s medical condition?
  • How would I manage daily activities?
  • What would be the hardest thing for me to handle at this time?
  • What would bring me joy?

How Does Empathy in the Workplace Affect Employees?

An empathetic nurse may inspire coworkers to address others the same way. By practicing empathy in the workplace, nurses can reduce stress for patients, coworkers, staff and other healthcare professionals. In addition, it supports ethical interactions among all employees and forms respectful and constructive working relationships.

What Is the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?

While empathy allows nurses to recognize and share the emotions of a patient, sympathy is a response to a person’s circumstance. Sympathy is a desire to see a patient free from distress and the hope that they can overcome their affliction. In other words, empathy is feeling with someone and sympathy is feeling for someone.

A nurse’s responsibility is to provide optimal patient care. Nurses constantly face challenges, hardships and heartbreak throughout their nursing careers; they know that not all patients survive. So, part of their job is to empathetically support patients and their families in their struggle with devastating diseases, life-changing injuries or terminal illnesses. The empathy that patients receive from nurses can leave them with a positive outlook regarding their healthcare experience.

Learn more about TAMIU’s online RN to BSN program.

Sources: Empathy Empowers Nurses to Care for Patients, Each Other

Reflections on Nursing Leadership: In Pursuit of Empathy

Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience: Why Empathy Has a Beneficial Impact on Others in Medicine: Unifying Theories

British Journal of General Practice: Effectiveness of Empathy in General Practice: A Systematic Review

Psychology Today: Empathy

WEGO Health: Empathy in Healthcare: 7 Benefits

Psychology Today: Empathy Vs Sympathy

Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges: Physicians’ Empathy and Clinical Outcomes for Diabetic Patients

Journal of Hand Surgery: Physician Empathy as a Driver of Hand Surgery Patient Satisfaction

MedicalGPS: The Importance of Empathy in Healthcare: Advancing Humanism

Daily Nurse: Sympathy vs. Empathy

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