In addition to the relationship in which compassion arises, the culture, too, affects what compassion looks like.
If the news was good, maybe they’d smile and squeeze their patient's hand reassuringly. If the prognosis was poor, maybe they’d shelter their patient from the distressing news, believing this the kindest, most compassionate approach.
Patient care was simpler back then, especially compared to today’s complex, technology-driven medicine where physicians link patients to the miracles of modern medicine: antibiotics, CT scans, laparoscopic surgery and so on.
If you or a loved one has ever been seriously ill, surely you can appreciate the enduring value of physicians' old-fashioned expressions of compassion, such as an encouraging word or a sympathetic hand squeeze.
The difference is that while compassionate words and actions are comforting and inspiring, the compassion you need most is your physicians’ sympathy and desire to help that drives them to...
• use technology optimally to find out what’s going on in your body in a timely fashion
• determine the best treatments for you, and
• administer treatments as safely and expeditiously as possible, all-the-while keeping you as comfortable as possible.
Next: In the day-to-day care of patients, how your doctors’ compassion affect their ability to care for you.