A little empathy…

The doctor holds the arm of the elderly patient  firmly as he briskly inserts a needle, without making eye contact or explaining what he is doing.  She is clearly distressed but he continues his business without a word.

A young orderly wheels the patient back to her ward. He smiles and introduces himself, taking a moment to ask if she is comfortable. I thank him and he tells me that he knows how much difference even a small acknowledgement can make.

I’ve spent many hours in a hospital this past week (not as a patient)  and have become acutely aware of the effects of every personal (and not so personal) interaction. It’s irrelevant whether the person concerned (or not so concerned)  is a doctor,  a nurse, an orderly or a cleaner. Only some display empathy. Not all are communicators. These are the things that matter. These are the things we should teach our children…

9 thoughts on “A little empathy…

  1. Empathy..these are the things we should teach our children and we do. However, tests do not measure the most important learning. Wishing you the best.


  2. Edna, I was recently on the receiving end of the needle! My hospital stay was in a teaching hospital, where I witnessed the passing-on of professional craft to trainee nurses. I was so impressed with the master-apprentice relationship where courtesy, respect and patience were the foundation of the interactions. There were lots of “I will show you how, then let you have a go” moments. I never felt concerned that an ‘apprentice’ was doing the procedure instead of the ‘master’. The ‘apprentice’ had been given lots of opportunities to get to know me as a person, and build a relationship from my first day. I couldn’t help but think that the whole tone of the hospital was influenced by its teaching role.
    The experience made me think about my own school, and how I could learn from colleagues and also pass on my craft to them. Courtesy, respect, patience, letting one another have a go. A sense of duty to learn from one another and to teach one another.
    Your post reminds me to make the most of every personal interaction from every colleague, and learn from all – not just the designated leaders.


  3. Dan Rockwell, from the blog “Leadership Freak”‘ echos these same words, and I couldn’t agree more that EMPATHY is a huge concept and skill to be developed through education. The more I learn about Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies, the more I realize they are explaining “best practice”. Developing empathy with our students starts by modeling it ourselves. Thank you for sharing with us, “Ed”.
    Take care and give it too,


  4. What a great reminder. I was thinking about your article today as I was talking with a student about her late homework. Rather than scolding her, I told her I noticed but I knew that late homework was unusual for her.

    She followed up by saying her sisters have been really sick.

    I’m glad I took the softer approach. I could definitely empathize!

    Janet | expateducator.com


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