Compassionate care key in decreasing patient pain, boosting outcomes

Healthcare that is delivered with kindness and compassion that celebrates the importance of human connection is more effective than not when treating sick patients, and can help them have less pain an anxiety, according to an article in Newsmax Health.

After reviewing various research on kindness and compassion in medical care, James Doty, M.D., founder and director of Stanford University School of Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, presented his findings at the Compassion and Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this month.

Nurturing by healthcare professions makes patients release oxytocin, which can help assuage anxious and tense feelings, resulting in lower perceptions of pain, Doty said, according to the article. Compassionate care can also lower blood pressure, shorten hospital stays and even reduce the length of the common cold.

Staff can practice compassion by simply touching the patient, and should avoid giving the impression they are rushing, Doty found, and said patients were even more compliant with doctors' recommendations if they were more compassionate, according to the article.

At California-based Dignity Health, the system pushes a series of initiatives to show everyday kindness and compassion, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Senior leaders participate in an hour of rounds each morning with patients and staff, followed by discussions about what staff need to do their job well, while staff can take care of a patient's pet at home so the patient won't worry during recovery. Hospital staff never leave a terminal patient to die alone, and the system as a whole donates to charitable causes and organizations.

Compassion is also a two-way street, said Emiliana Simon-Thomas, director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She called for patients to try and understand the great amount of pressure providers are under, and to seek compassionate care in a non-combative way.

Healthcare staff are vulnerable to "compassion fatigue," and nurses are especially at risk for becoming overwhelmed and depleted, FierceHealthcare previously reported. To combat compassion or empathy fatigue, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the District of Columbia offers nurses a chance to express themselves through creative arts, including journal writing, dance and movement, quilting and painting. In some cases, artists work with nurses for only a few minutes at a time to help them manage stress and develop coping skills.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- check out what Doty reviewed