“Compassion is not a virtue; it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have—it’s something we choose to practice.” – Brené Brown
Compassionate care. It is something we are reminded to do constantly, but I also think it is something that is easy to take for granted. How many times while listening to a lecture about compassionate care and treating the individual have you had the thought, “Of course I will be kind and considerate to my patients; I will listen to them and remember never to judge. This is all common sense.” Now think back to your most difficult patient. Maybe they had a thousand problems, or they were rude and demanding, or maybe everyone assumed the patient was just dramatic. How easy did true kindness come then?
I definitely haven’t always succeeded at my goal of being compassionate. However, I have seen examples throughout my third year of the difference kindness and empathy can make. I was talking to a gentleman on my family medicine nursing home visit today. He told me how during one hospital stay, there were times medical staff would come in the room and never say a word to him. They would just take down information on vitals and leave. He told me that sometimes it made him feel as if he was not a person, but just a set of vitals. How often do we become so focused on a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, that we forget the patient is person and not a diagnosis?
Another one of the patients I worked with will forever exemplify the difference a bit of kindness can make. She had been in the hospital for weeks waiting for answers when I began rotating on the service caring for her. I began to follow her as one of my patients and did so for the next three weeks. I spent hours researching her case and got to know her and her family during the many trips to her room. Despite the medical team finding the answer, God had other plans. I was in her room when she passed that day. Her mom hugged me and said, “My daughter knew how hard you worked for her; you helped give us hope. This whole team helped her feel safe her last few days at the hospital. That was so important. Thank you.” She and her family are forever ingrained in my memory. In the end it was not the diagnosis but the compassion showed to her by the medical staff that mattered. I hope that I can honor her in the future by remembering to treat my patients with compassion, even when it does not come easily. There have been times when I have been frustrated or had judgmental thoughts about some of the patient’s I am working with. I am working hard to catch these thoughts and remind myself that I don’t know what these patients are going through, and don’t really understand how awful, sick or overwhelmed they may feel. I would be doing my patient’s a disservice if I take the importance of compassion for granted. This is why I am making it my commitment to learn to listen to my patients and treat them with the kindness they deserve.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Rock Hill South Carolina. I attended USC (GO GAMECOCKS) graduating with a major in biology and minor in anthropology before coming to Greenville for medical school. I am an avid dog lover and spend time volunteering at Greenville Humane Society and dog sitting for fellow classmates. I am honored to attend a medical school that is committed to teaching students to provide compassionate care to their patients.
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville