compassionate care graphicImagine 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:

photo credit: Near the end via photopin (license)