Monthly Archives: March 2014

Empathy in healthcare

Are we working in a system (or in a society) where there is an empathy deficit ? Obama would have us think we do and although his comments are obviously US centric it does raise the question of whether care and compassion ‘fatigue’ is behind some of the recent high profile failures within the NHS. So, if this is a real phenomenon how do you spot if you are suffering a deficit? how does this link in with your core values and behaviours ? What about your wider professional responsibilities? if you did notice you were or becoming ’empathy deficient’, what would you do about it ? should you do something ? How do you live and work authentically ? How would you show courage?

Lots of questions here !



on being your authentic self

Authenticity is so important and yet (in my experience) often neglected.  So how do you connect with your authentic self, what does that even mean and why might this have important ramifications for life and happiness?


What are your core values ? 

Wow, that’s a tough question ! This means thinking about yourself for a while, and how often do we do that ! OK, still finding that tough, not sure ? Consider this, if someone or something violates one of your core values you will feel:

  • Angry
  • Irritated
  • Violated
  • Etc..
Strong emotions ! 
For example, one of my core values is compassion; I would be prepared to step in and act as an advocate if I felt compassion was being compromised.  I would speak up even if that made me feel vulnerable.  That is a core value.
So, take some time this week to work out your values; write them down, draw them…. Whatever works for you.  If you are not sure then work with someone you trust, or a coach, and work out your list of values.  Keep this list safe and review this regularly.  
How to use this ? At times of challenge review your list.  Are you violating or being asked to violate won’t of your core values ? Is this why you feel challenged at this time ?   If it is then a coaching conversation may be of use in enabling you to move forward and back into a world where your values are upheld.


Time to care

So here’s a question I posed recently to a class of year 3 undergraduates in a discussion about care and compassion – “when did we stop caring ?”.  This stopped the debate about the Francis report in its tracks ! Every student could tell me what they needed to do, what they should do.  Why then, I asked, was it so different there?  Why then do staff have to be reminded to care (let’s face it , that is what the 6cs does) ? Arhh, well we are busy, we don’t have time, we only see patients for very short periods of time (so it doesn’t matter?), it’s what others do (so they copy or become habituated?).  Quite depressing really.

So, as a coach what do I think the issues are and what (maybe) the answers might be? I don’t know about you but i worry about being a patient again one day if this is what I may encounter; care shouldn’t be a lottery.

Some of the answers may lie in  Robin Youngson’s book – Time to care.  Boy does this resonate with me ! Youngson talks about the medicalisation of patients – they become pathologies not people.  I see this echoed in radiographic practice too.  Indeed I presented a paper called ‘the curious incident of the disappearing patient – and not just in the nighttime’ (homage to a favourite book there) On that very theme.  We x-Ray thumbs and chests and scan abdomens and heads…. And I challenge that reductionist approach as I feel it dehumanises that person, discourages care and compassion.

Back to my question – how might coaching fit in here.  I see the potential for coaching to be utilised as part of a professional’s reflective practice – and as part of everyday reflection, not just when things go wrong.  I believe that only by looking after ones own health and well being can one hope to deliver care in a compassionate, courageous way.  And in today’s pressurised imaging department it is so easy to focus on numbers, speed and efficiency – how quickly can you scan or x-Ray that patient.  Job done, next please.  But, time to think (Kline) and taking care of ones own well being, through reflective practice, is vital too.

So, my coaching advice to any healthcare professional (inc radiographers) next time you have a busy day (probably every day !) take some time to reflect on how you made a difference to your patients today.  And if you can’t think of any moments (and assume here you would want to have considered at least one) really do think about whether you might benefit from a coaching conversation.  Take care of yourself.

Youngson R (2011) Time to care.  New Zealand, Rebelheart Publishers.

Other reference is  to Nancy Kline’s book Time to think.