RP401 – Session 2.3: Empathy/Sympathy

Session Readings


Empathy is becoming a hot topic in teaching and training our future doctors. It goes far beyond having a good bedside manner, it requires true understanding of our patients. While it is certainly true that some people are innately more empathetic, most experts believe this is a skill that can be taught. Certainly, medical knowledge and technical skills must be a part of the training that future physicians receive. To ignore empathy as part of training, however, is not an option. Lack of empathy and compassion can have both direct and indirect impact on the patient care we render. Medical outcomes, medical litigation and reimbursement all are affected by the doctor-patient relationship. The ability to empathize with our patients is a huge determinant of the quality of this bond. As an additional benefit, empathy training may also help reduce physician stress and decrease physician burnout. In this module we will explore ways that we can strengthen our abilities to be more empathetic.

To prepare for this session, please take the time to review the included media links:

  1. Start with the animated short, “What is empathy?”
  2. Next read the article, “How to teach Doctor’s Empathy.”
  3. Then watch the TED talk, “Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.”
  4. Lastly, listen to the podcast, “23 weeks 6 days.”

During our session, we will be exploring empathy and ways to further our ability to bring more of it into our practice of medicine. Begin to think of patients or experiences you have had during which you either felt great empathy or have had difficulty feeling or expressing it. Be honest with yourself, this is not a skill that is easy to exhibit each and every time you care for a patient. As a group we will explore the following questions:

  1. What is empathy?
  2. How is empathy expressed?
  3. What are examples of empathetic language?
  4. How are thoughts different from emotions?
  5. What are accurate and active listening? How are they the same? How are they different?
  6. What is sincerity? Why is it important?
  7. Are emotions  OK in the practice of medicine?
TEDEd_rgb9e827c-330x77Compassion and the true meaning of empathy Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she's learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.
Topics: /
AtlanticHow to Teach Doctors Empathy "Being a good doctor requires an understanding of people, not just science." Increasing physician empathy skills provides a better experience for the patient, the doctor, and overall better outcomes on both ends.
Topics: Keywords: / /
RSA ShortWhat is Empathy? An Animated RSA Short In this animated short, Dr. Brene Brown explains how empathy enhances connection while sympathy promotes disconnection.
Topics: / Keywords: / / /
RadioLab23 Weeks 6 Days When Kelley Benham and her husband Tom French finally got pregnant, after many attempts and a good deal of technological help, everything was perfect. Until it wasn't. Their story raises questions that, until recently, no parent had to face… and that are still nearly impossible to answer. This hour, we spend the entire episode on the story of Kelley and Tom, whose daughter was born at 23 weeks and 6 days, roughly halfway to full term. Their story contains an entire universe of questions about the lines between life and death, reflex and will, and the confusing tug of war between two basic moral touchstones: doing no harm...and doing everything in our power to help.
Topics: / /
Session originally created by: Adam Saperstein | | |