What is the Importance and Impact of Compassion?

Shane Sinclair

April 4, 2022

Why we need to pay attention.

Compassion can no longer be dismissed as ancillary to the core business of healthcare or elective learning for healthcare providers (HCP).

Systematic reviews, nationalhealth reports, and research concur that compassion is the most salient,multi-factorial, and impactful care modality — having a strong positive effect on the patient experience and a variety of patient-reported outcomes, healthsystem quality indicators, health outcomes, and HCP workplace wellness.

Specifically, compassion significantly reduces patient symptom burden, improves quality of life, and enhances quality of care ratings. Compassion also optimizes clinical communication, emotional resonance, and patient-centred care. Conversely, a lack of compassion is associated with increased patient/family complaints and malpractice suits, healthcare costs, non-disclosure of health information, and adverse medical events. Recent high-profile national healthcare reviews and surveys identified deficiencies incompassion as one of the greatest factors in system -wide healthcare failures.

How can compassion help us?

While healthcare experiences deficient in compassion traverse patient populations, they are most commonly experienced and reported among one of Canada’s most vulnerable populations — older adults living with a life limiting incurableillness.

Compassion also has a strong positive effect on HCPs who care for these individuals, including but not limited to, increased workplace well-being, job satisfaction, and retention.

Finally, recent research and reviews demonstrate an inverse relationship between compassion and moral distress, burnout and occupational stress, suggesting that compassion training may also be of benefit to the almost 50% of HCPs whocurrently experience burnout.

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