Compassion Corner: Is There a Healthcare Crisis? If so, can Compassionate Doctors and Nurses Solve It?

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 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.



Chief of Medicine at Cooper Medical School, author Stephen Trzeciak, has spent several years analyzing the subject of compassion for the book he co-authored with Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli. Dr. Trzeciak spoke with personalities at the Wharton Business School.

Dr. Trzeciak says that biomedical literature clearly points to the fact that compassion creates improved results for patients, their doctors, and the business in general.

It should be a given because people become doctors in order to care about a person’s well-being. Then he asks, why there is a compassion crisis in healthcare today?

Dr. Trzeciak and his co-author Dr. Anthon Mazzarelli are physician-scientists at Cooper University’s Health Care center in New Jersey. They examine that question in their book entitled Compassionomics, where they discuss data they found in hundreds of cases.

The authors support the idea that compassion results in less burnout for physicians and improved results for patients. He touches on the subject of empathy saying that if you do not understand another person’s emotional state you will not be included to act with compassion.

A 2012 study found that fifty-six percent of physicians feel they do not have enough time for compassion.

Electronic health data is another factor where doctors distance themselves from patients. The average physician spends more time staring at their computer screens instead of into their patient’s eyes.

But does it really matter?

He answered his own question by saying that 99% of people in healthcare feel that compassion is vital, or it is an “ought” – that we “ought” to be compassionate and treat people accordingly.

Both doctors studied this aspect for two years testing whether compassion was important in an ethical, moral, scientific, or emotional sense.

The most prominent answer is that there is significant evidence that increased compassion equates to lower burnout. Secondly, there is evidence that it is not only good for the recipient, but it is also good for the person expressing compassion.

There is also the perception among patients that when they are treated with compassion, they perceive their doctor to be more competent.

An interesting point involves primary care physicians. Compassionate care and bonding with a physician have resulted in a lower number of diagnostic tests and specialist referrals as well as fewer hospital admissions and medical charges.

Healthcare professionals that do not bond with their patients rely mainly on technologies and tests rather than speaking with the patient.

Finances and Business

An entire section of Compassionomics is devoted to discussing the selection of a doctor. One study involves seven million physician reviews. Over fifty percent of those reviews focused on personal association.

Another factor in the two-year review was whether or not a student can learn compassion. Dr. Trzeciak confessed that at one time he believed that a person was either born with that trait or they were not. But when he looked at the data, which showed an abundance of facts to the contrary, he understood that it can be acquired.

Then we have compassion in a surgeon’s practice as compared to a general practitioner. Dr. Trzeciak mentioned that he has spent most of his practice in intensive care with patients unable to communicate.

Yet there are numerous opportunities to comfort and show compassion to caregivers. As far as surgeons, he believes they are misunderstood. He says that they are the most compassionate physicians he has ever met.

The last issue is compassion in the ER and a paper Dr. Trzeciak published with Dr. Mazzarelli where they studied compassion during a life-threatening medical emergency. The end result was lower PTSD symptoms, which are common to patients who experienced medical emergencies.

The doctors found that giving the patient more compassionate care during a medical emergency makes it less traumatic. The doctors are going to submit a grant to the NIH for further study of PTSD and compassion.

Dr. Trzeciak ended the discussion by referencing the 250 studies described in his book that point more to physicians rather than nurses. He emphasized that a nurse’s exhibiting compassion is of equal importance.

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.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email