Empathy—we have an inherent sense of what it is. We can often recognize it in ourselves. And empathy is often what prompted us to the healthcare profession – our desire to help people who are hurting.

Yet do we actually practice empathy when working with patients, and what prevents this?
It takes time.
It requires us to be vulnerable.
It requires us to accept, care for and connect with individuals we wouldn’t usually choose to be with or who are making choices we don’t approve of.

Empathy is the essence of person-centered palliative care. We don’t need a specialty certification to practice with empathy. We just need an open heart, and a willingness to meet people where they are- in their pain, grief, distress or despair. At times this requires us to connect with our own pain, loss, and suffering, not so they can fix it, but so we can understand and connect.

The essence of empathy is putting ourselves in another person’s shoes, trying to understand what they are going through, what they are concerned about, and what is most important to them. This is the heart of palliative care.

Take a few minutes to watch this empathy video from the Cleveland Clinic, thinking about the messages conveyed, then share your reflections on empathy on the discussion board below.

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