Clinical Empathy

I’m currently typing this at 2:45am from my new posting at the children emergency night call. I’m dagger out from working all night and in all sanity, the only thing I can think about is taking a warm bath and really sleeping but in the midst of my rosy thoughts, there comes in an emergency. This comatose child was rushed in with panicking parents. Information gathered was that the child would have never been in such a state if he was brought in earlier but with completely illetrate people, Nigerian situation and irrational culture, negligence, visiting the wrong places, taking the wrong medications and advice rules the day! It’s a wrestle in my mind, one blaming the parents for this negligence and blaming chemist shops for not sticking to their job. You could see the anxiety, fighting spirit with patient relatives at every corner of the hospital. It’s like having wardrounds of pastors every day beside each patient all wanting a miracle, desiring healing. These people are beyond terrified and as they walk in to pick their drugs from an exhausted human, it’s rational to be mad, angry, furious when the don’t obey instructions. I dole out information like a soldier without regarding their frustrations. There’s an afrobeat sound in the background like im having a mini party and my face looks like an erupting volcano. I hand over these drug supplies finally and tell them never to come back.

Clinical Empathy was never thought in school. We were thought on improving patient quality of life and all that pharmacology but there was never clinical Empathy 101. We had to do this learning on our own. I did quite a mini research and it’s awesome my discovery that my colleagues that have this gift or show this empathy had always had it since birth. It’s evident not just in the work place or their patient friendliness evaluation but across their lives. It’s like a lifestyle for them which is very much admirable but I can say the same for myself who is not easily drawn to sympathy or have one of those comforting moments towards someone. I’ve also come to realize that these frustrations can result to transferred aggression to the pharmacist or the doctor but an exhausted person would read the wrong writing on the wall and translate such to an insult.

In all, I’m advocating that clinical Empathy should be thought in schools. A little policy from my dad that could come in handy is this ‘There’s no difference between a patient and the health care professional, it’s just a matter of time’. The translation can happen in a switch of time so be nicer and act like you would a relative or you. Walk in their shoes for a moment for a change. Clinical Empathy or just empathy is what I’m gradually learning, a step by step process of contributing to patients quality care and the relatives overall wellbeing.


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