Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
April 8, 2019
It may come as no surprise, but conventional medicine doesn’t successfully treat all diseases. Of course, no healing modality is successful 100% of the time. Why do conventional medicine and other forms of the healing arts fail sometimes? Obviously, there are many factors. However, I believe there is one common human skill that is critical for successful outcomes. And the lack of this human factor welcomes failures in medicine?
I believe the underlying and overwhelming human factor for success in medicine is empathy. A lack of empathy by anyone on the medical and healing teams is a destructive influence. Empathy is the human missing link for successful outcomes.
Maybe all of us need to revisit the meaning of empathy. Empathy is the intangible capacity to understand and share the feelings of another. Let me emphasize: Understand and Share the Feelings!
Treatment Includes Empathy
Sick people want to get healthy. They may need specific forms of treatment to get healthy. But they always need to feel heard and understood. They require concern and compassion from healers no matter if these healers are in the conventional world of medicine or in the alternative world of medicine. Sick people require empathy from their caregivers to get healthy. People who are hurting need to believe in themselves and their ability to heal. Empathy can overcome and strengthen the state of mind in which people who are suffering find themselves.
Lack of Empathy Examples
Being in the healthcare world, I see it all the time. I witness lack of empathy from the person who takes the first phone call from a new patient. I hear it from staff members in the way they speak to patients with little concern for their wait time in the reception room. I have experienced it in the way patients are addressed when their name is called, how he or she is ushered into a room that is too cold and uncomfortable, how the doctor eventually shows up looking at a pile of papers with no eye contact with the patient.
Patients don’t know what they don’t know. They are scared. They are confused. They are hurting either physically or emotionally. They don’t know to whom to express themselves. And then they are stifled when there is no outlet for expression while in the presence of those healthcare professionals who are lacking the healing quality if empathy.
Excuses for Lack of Empathy
Lack of empathy is pervasive. Doctors of all types get into a rut. They often become mechanical in what they do day-after-day. They present countless treatment plans and provide numerous treatments to patients. They take their repetitive routines for granted – almost as a perfunctory daily duty. Treatment options are not fully discussed. Patient’s fears are not explored. Paperwork, government, and insurance companies get in the way. “It’s my way or the highway” is the attitude of many professionals in various healthcare fields.
Don’t get me wrong. Many health providers are empathetic, and their staffs are caring. But if there were a common denominator leading to unsuccessful medical results, empathy would be the missing link in the healing professions in my opinion.
Like anything in life, if there is a problem, then there probably is a fix. Empathy could be the most important ingredient in the delivery of successful healthcare. As a matter of fact, empathy is a human quality that all of us should use daily in all our interactions.
If empathy is not part of your equation when dealing with people, then search for a fix. There are courses you could take and books you could read. It’s not that difficult. More than half the battle is won once you realize there is a problem and know there is a potential fix.