Patient-Centered Care: A Practice in Empathy

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, March 24, 2017, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot


The healthcare field is uniquely composed of people who genuinely want to help others in some way.  The concept of patient-centered care is based on improving the relationship between the care provider and the patient as well as addressing and incorporating the psychosocial component to the care management continuum. The patient-centered care model promotes the opportunity to exercise empathy towards improving the patient’s hospital experience. Empathy as described in Mosby’s Medical Dictionary is “the ability to recognize and to some extent share the emotions and states of mind of another and to understand the meaning and significance of that person’s behavior”.     When the day is packed with medication times, discharge preparation, and everything in between, sometimes patient-centered care can get lost in the hustle. Providing good patient-centered care does not have to take a lot of time. Here are some simple tips you can incorporate in your daily schedule. 

1. New Environment: For some people, the hospital is not a new environment, but for many others it is both new and scary.  The bed is different, the air is dry, and the noises are unsettling.  Help patients feel comfortable and safe by checking on them regularly, making sure they are warm enough, have accessible lotion for dry skin and addressing other comfort concerns, both physical and psychosocial.
2. Dependency: The day before they are hospitalized, many patients could make anything they wanted for dinner, do any activity that they pleased, and had full autonomy of their life.  But while in the hospital, some people aren’t even allowed to get out of bed by themselves.  A patient’s autonomy is very limited, if not completely relinquished, because they are dependent on their nurse for everything.  Give the patient choices and control whenever possible, whether that is over their meals, their sleep/wake cycle, or their schedule.
3. Uncertainty: The hospital is a place of uncertainty for many people.  Uncertainty in their health and diagnosis, whether they can go home or not, and a multitude of other issues.  Quell the uncertainty in items and actions that are certain.  Discuss the plan of care, schedule, and even how the IV works.  Empower the patient through education.

Patient care is not just the act of providing care or healing. There is a strong emphasis on relationship building and understanding the individual’s feeling and the meaning behind their illness in a patient-centered approach.  What does this illness mean to the patient and how can we make their experience better by having this information?  While the day’s schedule doesn’t make this easy, understanding the experience of being a patient is a great way to remember the importance of patient-centered care.

March 24, 2017

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