Compassion Corner: Healthcare Workers Made Daily Visits to Cheer Lonely Patients, But Lawyers Questioned the Legality  

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 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.



According to an article in Healthcare Finance, nurses at the Beth Israel Hospital recently found many patients with a type of pain for which there was no immediate remedy.

The pandemic had caused patients to be isolated from people they love and who love them. It was obvious that the patients were not coping very well.

Compassion has always been emphasized in quality care. Compassion and empathy have become even more important during COVID-19. The nurses at Beth Israel made a decision to visit patients daily and offer a “human connection.” The staff was fully vaccinated and wore protective clothing.

The patients were pleased but lawyers questioned whether these informal visits violated hospital rules.

The nurses were not deterred. Although they understood that lawyers must safeguard patients’ safety, it was obvious that the well-intentioned lawyers had not realized the detrimental effects of isolation. The nurses decided to set the rules aside and comfort the patients.

One of the nurses commented that a staff member should be allowed to advocate for a patient even if it is contrary to their organization’s philosophy. Doing what is right for the patient should be first and foremost.

There is one more element in this equation. Providers may have every intention of putting the needs of the patients above everything else. But the provider is under strict standard of care rules that at times may hamper its ability to fully serve the patient.

Patient Ratings and Surveys

Surveys have been the standard method of gauging patient experience. When the pandemic took hold, many patients suffered isolation and loneliness, yet these emotions were not fully represented by the surveys.

For instance, empathy is fine in theory, but how can a healthcare organization gauge if their staff is providing that empathy to patients?

This question and others like it were presented at a digital session moderated by Adrienne Boissy of Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic. Other speakers were Ben Moore, a former anesthesiologist at Beth Israel, and Helen Riess. Ms. Riess is the co-founder of Empathetics, a unique company providing interpersonal skills and empathy training to medical professionals.

Moore commented that the majority of an organization’s staff may be well-meaning but that is not enough to ensure that the entire entity will operate under one solid “benevolent roof.”

He said that the patient and staff members should be allowed to decide on the best options for the patient. He added that it should be structured not only for the patient’s medical care but for their wellbeing.

There is even a place for electronic health records in training for compassion. The opportunities arise by showing prompts on the screen reminding the physicians and nurses about personal details from the patient’s background. As Riess pointed out, electronic records provide an unlimited opportunity to share information and really focus on what is most important to the patient.

In the pandemic’s next phase, compassion and empathy will continue to take a major role in healthcare. The isolation created by COVID-19 has caused providers to ensure that patients are given the care and support they need.



Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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