“If you want to work as a dialysis professional,
you need to find the time and energy
to improve our patients’ Quality of Life.
They deserve it.”
In my President’s letters in 2017, I will be speaking to you about issues that are important to our patients and their Quality of Life (QOL). It is important that with all the requirements from CMS, the State, etc., that we remain focused on our patients and doing everything we can do to improve their QOL.
Empathy is something that as dialysis professionals we need to know. Most of know this (sort of), but are a little hazy on what it is.
What is Empathy?
It is when you understand someone else’s perspective and experience their feelings yourself. It differs from sympathy, which involves compassion, but not necessarily sharing their perspective or emotions.
Dialysis patients are often disfigured, needled, and subject to highly evasive life sustaining scheduled treatment. They have ALL experienced loss and have higher incidence of depression - as high as 30% in some dialysis centers. They have a lower perceived quality of life than the rest of us. It is not surprising they are depressed.
They have a life threatening illness that requires a very specialized treatment. It impacts their ability to support themselves and their families. It impacts their relationships on all levels. It impacts their ability for intimacy for the significant other. And it impacts the basic human need. That is to procreate.
Dialysis Units Can be Rigid & Un-Caring Bureaucracies
This can strip the patient of dignity, autonomy and control. This sets the stage for conflict, rather than patient focused compassionate care.
When Responding to Patient Concerns:
- Are you open or defensive?
- Do you presume validity of the patient’s concerns or minimizing them?
- When talking to patients about their expressed concerns, what does your body language say?
- What would patient say about how open you are?
- How can you show empathy?
You should focus more on how the patient feels than on their behavior. Before you respond, you should reflect on what they just told and what it means to them.
True listening means dropping preconceived ideas, being in the moment with them, caring deeply, being attentive, being open, curious and responding rather than reacting.
This is not easy or simple. It takes practice. It takes getting over all the distractions that are all around - all the other people (staff and patients), what you have to do next, how little time you have. It really is difficult in environment that is most is the dialysis unit that we all work in.
But, if you want to work as a dialysis professional, you need to find the time and energy to do this. Our patients deserve it.
The old expression says “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Research shows that 50% of communication is non-verbal. These include eye movements, hand movements, posture, facial expressions and body contact. You can defeat yourself before start if your body language is not genuine. Our patients have nothing better to do than watch us. Our body language tells it all!
Click here to read previous Letters from the President.