Compassion Corner: Being Human Does Not Take Much Effort; It Only Takes Fifty-six Seconds


Compassion [kuhmpash-uhn] noun
A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Compassion Corner is a new weekly series from Patient Worthy that will focus on the subject of compassion in the healthcare and rare disease space. In this series, we explore the role of compassion in this field and what it means for caregivers, patients, and others.



Med City News recently carried an article featuring a presentation by Christy Dempsey, chief of nursing, at the Patient Experience Summit held at the Cleveland Clinic.

The theme of the presentation was to remind the attending nurses that patients should be addressed not just according to their symptoms but also according to their personal wellbeing.

Nurse Christy reminds the audience that their patients are human, have feelings, and want to be treated like people, not numbers.

Christy told the audience that when she was recovering from surgery for breast cancer a person in scrubs walked into her room. Without saying a word, the person lifted Christy’s gown and then announced that she was just taking a look at the effects of the surgery. Other than Christy asking “Who are you?” no other words were exchanged.

A nurse in the audience recounted a similar incident that happened to her husband. He told of a person “barging” into his hospital room and without introduction and began to read test results aloud.

Her husband was alert enough to understand the instructions. But as the nurse pointed out, an eighty-year-old patient would probably go home oblivious to the proper dosage or timing of the medication.

Human Connections a Part of Being a Great Clinician

Christy reminded the audience that healthcare is experiencing a movement towards empathy, compassion, and connecting with patients. She asked the audience to ask clinicians they work with if they can describe one personal bit of information that is not in any way connected to the patient’s illness. She said that it only takes 56 seconds to form a connection with a patient.

One rule suggested for the staff to follow is if a staff worker is within ten feet of a patient or the patient’s visitor, an acknowledgment is in order. If the distance is five feet the staff member should offer an introduction.

Christy reminds her audience that patients are scared and need compassion. She again suggested that patients should be treated like people and not identified by their injury or illness.

A Very Personal Story

Christy shared a tragic occurrence within her own family that happened in January. Her son-in-law, a police officer in Springfield Missouri, was shot in the eye and also told initially that he may not fully recover nor be able to walk or speak.

Christy dramatically pointed out that Aaron was not the patient in bed 4, he was Aaron Pearson, dad, son, and brother. She reminded the audience that their patients are more than a bed or room number.

Compassion and “Good Care” Brought Aaron Back

Aaron made a remarkable recovery within four months although he lost the use of his injured eye. A nurse in Aaron’s neurotrauma unit worked with so much care, empathy, and compassion that Christy, along with six others, nominated her for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. Her name is Kylie Powers and she won the award.  Kylie gave her patients the personal care they deserved and never treated her work as a task.

As a comparison, one night Christy overheard a nurse complain that her patients acted “needy” all day. The nursing audience clearly groaned at that revelation.

Communication is important. Healthcare requires a team effort that includes the patient’s family. Staff members should be encouraged to pitch in.

Any care or input that helps decision-making is always welcome. Just as giving personal care to the patient’s family is welcomed.


Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia four years ago. He was treated with a methylating agent While he was being treated with a hypomethylating agent, Rose researched investigational drugs being developed to treat relapsed/refractory AML.

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