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Compassion: hard to define, impossible to mandate

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 July 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h3991

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Re: Compassion: hard to define, impossible to mandate

thank you for being brave enough to write this. There are times when it is appropriate and helpful to have an authentic human connection with a patient or family. Other times it is awkward, unprofessional and makes doing the job much more difficult.
There is a reason why family members do not want to take onthe role of 'professional carer', and at least in part it is because there are times when patients are not behaving reasonably. Sometimes it is important to have a professional, respectful distance in order to challenge their demands/ wants/ expectations which go beyond what is possible, or fair.
Staff cannot be told to feel something, or be expected to disclose their own experiences. We already give out a lot. A requirement to engage and be compassionate will result in burn out, unless it is genuine ( and of course, sometimes it is).
As a patient I would be satisfied to be treated with courtesy, respect, and dignity. I would say that, at times, staff have barely managed that.
Perhaps we should aim to have consistent courtesy, respect, dignity, i.e.. Just being professional. We should not ever have staff more interested in their phones/ friends/chatting; than the patient or family in front of them.

Competing interests: Work as healthcare professional who does not want to be mandated to be compassionate.

08 August 2015
ruth Evans
North Tyneside CCG
Village Green Surgery, Wallsend