Intended for healthcare professionals


Experiences of death and other stories . . .

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 25 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2855

Empathy in health professionals

Watching people die used to be part of growing up until the last century. But few medical students witness death until they work on hospital wards, and in semi-structured interviews 53 medical students described the experience to researchers (BMC Med Educ doi: 10.1186/s12909-016-0631-3). Most felt emotionally diminished, experienced a decrease in empathy to cope with the emotional pain, and sought the comfort of colleagues. This rite of passage also introduced them to the ordinariness of death and their professional role in dealing with its practicalities. Shifts of empathy are also explored in a New Scientist article ( “Empathic distress” is a common cause of burnout in health professionals and can lead to aggressiveness and a desire to escape. However, compassion training methods …

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