Imagine riding in a car with your friends, and everything goes black. The next thing you know, you are lying somewhere, but you can’t see. You’re in indescribable pain. You can’t speak. You can’t move your head.
Then you feel a soft touch on your hand and arm, and a caring voice explains that you were in a car accident. This person squeezes your hand and says, “I’m here.”
Those two words make a world of difference.
This is the story of Marcus Engel. He was in the hospital for months, blinded, and underwent hundreds of hours of facial reconstructive surgery after this accident in 1993.
Marcus used his experience to write books for healthcare professionals, teaching them how to better communicate and treat their patients compassionately.
Learning about the importance of compassionate care was a completely new concept for me; I’d simply never thought about it before. Reading his books was like a look into what it’s like to be utterly vulnerable and at the mercy of caregivers. It really affected me.
The nurse who touched Marcus’ hand and said, “I’m Here” made a huge difference to him and his recovery. In his books, he writes about the profound, lasting effect of her compassion.
People who work in a hospital aren’t just handing out pills and diagnoses; they offer empathy, reassurance, and hope–these intangibles that mean SO much to someone who is powerless and in pain.
Incapacitated patients may feel like they’ve had to relinquish their pride, independence, and needs to their caregivers. It’s amazing how a smile and positive attitude can make a difference to a patient.
And consider this–it might not come naturally for a medical professional to show empathy. Doctors have been extensively trained to recognize and treat medical issues, but they may have never received training on how to deal with people compassionately. According to this CNN article, empathy courses are rarely required in medical training, but interest is growing.
It’s not surprising that HSPs are usually well equipped to excel at jobs requiring empathy. We are great at putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and love to help others. But of course, there is the risk of burnout–compassion fatigue.
I’m ending this post with a quote from Marcus.
The one big take away I want everyone to remember is how presence is the cornerstone of caregiving, but take that a step further and presence is the cornerstone of humanity. So many of us who are highly sensitive also deal with the anxiety of a nervous system amped up to 11. Presence is the goal of meditation to calm the mind to help us be less reactive and able to handle the stressors life throws our way.
Listen to the podcast episode on this topic.
Marcus Engel’s books:
- I’m Here – Compassionate Communication in Patient Care
- The Other End Of The Stethoscope – 33 Insights for Excellent Patient Care
photo credit: Near the end via photopin (license)
Empathy can be such a double-edged sword. Before you’re aware of your thoughts and emotions, it can be so easy to mistake the other person’s emotions as your own. But learning to observe without being overwhelmed, it can become very easy to be compassionate. And I think people who are gifted in this way are naturally drawn to helping professions. Excellent article.
I am a nurse who is also an introverted HSP. I work in 3 different LTC homes dealing with seniors. I like what I do and know I am really good at my specialty(I am self employed as well!) but it also can take a toll on me. Most days after work I find some way to have a bit of time to myself before going home to care for my family.
As Bethany mentions above it is so important to observe and listen first! Everything is not always as it seems….
Yes I am an HAP & had a counsellor who had NO idea about HSP & told me to forget I am, extremely tactless, U can’t go around & tell people to change the way they were hence I never went back
I always thank heavens for caregivers! Having parents to take care of with such complications while working is such a tough job and opting for a caregiver is always a great idea. I feel very confident hiring such because I can also feel how emphatic these caregivers are, they treat their patients as their own family. Thanks for sharing!
As a medical professional, sometimes we are so tied up with completing this procedure or documenting care, that we forget an important aspect…. the patient. All too often, we don’t realize the little things that we do for our patients can mean the world to them when they need it the most. Great post and a great way to remind myself to ensure the little things are just as important.
Thank you, Jo!!
Being compassionate with your work means you are devoted and you care for everything in it. That would be the nicest way to do specially if you’re taking of someone else.
I agree. In my onion, compassionate, sensitive medical professionals are very important
All the very best of luck to you!!! Many thanks!