President's Message - If We Only Knew?

by Tom Westerkamp, ICHP President
June 3, 2013

At the keynote address at the recent MSHP/ICHP Spring meeting, Scott Knoer, the Chief Pharmacy Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, shared an inspirational video that portrayed patients, visitors, and staff at a busy hospital with silent captions over their heads that described what each individual was thinking about or worrying about as they went about their day at the hospital. The video is titled “Empathy: Exploring Human Connection.”

This compelling video showed a typical day in a hospital, highlighting patients being admitted and recovering from various procedures, and the captions provided insights into the emotional mindset of these patients. There were also visitors portrayed that were worried about loved ones in the hospital, and hospital employees that were worrying about their own personal issues. It ends with a probing question for the viewer that really resonated with me: “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes, hear what they hear, see what they see, feel what they feel, would you treat them differently?”

This certainly applies to each of us regardless of our practice setting. Whether we are in clinical positions with frequent interactions with patients and family members, or administrative positions with less patient contact, or primary responsibilities in distribution, education, or industry, we ALL interact with other people and ALL of us have personal issues that occupy our minds on a daily basis. These personal issues can influence our mindset, our behavior, and our day-to-day emotions. Understanding how these personal issues occupying our minds can affect what we say and do to others can help each of us in our daily lives.

If we could  be more empathetic when we deal with others that disagree with us, treat us abruptly, or appear depressed or worried, each of us could be more understanding and compassionate, and less reactive in our personal interactions. Regardless of where we practice, we can incorporate the message from the video into our daily lives. We all interact with people that don’t feel well or are worried about something, either at work, school or home. By trying to remember that patients, family members, hospital staff members and each of us have personal issues that may be causing us to act the way we do, we may be able to better understand the other person’s point of view, and help us act in a more caring way.

Not only would our daily interactions with others be less confrontational, I can’t help but think how much better the world would be if we all could be more empathetic to the needs of others. Easier said than done, I know. I’ll try to remember this the next time I am cut off in traffic!

So when the phone in the pharmacy is ringing off the hook for another “missing” medication or IV, we have yet another presentation to prepare for, another report or evaluation to complete, or another quiz to take, and our anxiety level is elevated, if we could take just a second to remember the message from this video that compels us to try to see the world through the eyes of the other person before our emotions drive our behavior or dictate our response, all of us, and all of our patients, would be better off.

Thanks for caring.

Reference / Link to the video:

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