The Healing Touch of Empathy

Oct 7 , 2023
By Eden Sahle

My physician friend who was recently bereaved confided in me how painful it would be to go back to work at a hospital.

The thought of working in a place where death is taken rather statistically and is somehow part of the environment would be a constant reminder of his loved one who departed recently.

As the general populace is likely to encounter physicians during times of sickness or death, the stark dichotomy between the sick and their caregivers is amplified in a hospital setting.

The constant contact with death makes professionals appear apathetic towards the incident. While it is understandable that family members and professionals grieve differently, their understanding of the vitality of life and prompt acceptance of lifelessness spur light-hearted reliving of the last moments of patients with their families.

Delivering difficult news needs compassion. Health professionals have a profound impact on their patients' well-being. Research has shown that patients treated with empathy and kindness recover faster and experience better health outcomes. Compassionate care provides patients with the emotional support they need to heal than those who are mistreated.

Indeed, wonders happen when compassion is exercised. My late beloved friend experienced a vastly different approach when she received cancer treatment. Her doctor gently informed her that she was not responding to treatments and that he believed there were no more conventional options available.

He paused to comfort her, expressing his deep regret that he could not do more to stop the spread. Despite this devastating news, her unwavering spirit shone through as he urged her not to give up hope of finding a cure through traditional medicines.

It is a prime indicator that medical professionals should be stewards of hope. Ethiopia thrives on well-rounded physicians who meet the needs of their patients.

With extensive training and expertise, physicians have the responsibility to share the difficult truth with patients and families, even if their reactions are not as anticipated. While nothing can ease the blunt force of loss, impolite interactions only add salt to injury.

It is possible to frame bad news in a form that radiates light by relating to something the person has control over. It is helpful to put oneself in others' shoes and take remarks on the experience.

Even in the business world, bad news should be delivered in a way that respects both the professional and the client. A private setting for a one-to-one conversation is preferable as difficult emotions might arise.

The information needs to be clear and concise. Although the quick approach is often attributed to being overworked and overwhelmed by the demands, it should not serve as an excuse for failure to develop the necessary communication skills.

Particularly life-altering information should be presented in an appropriate manner. The death of a loved one brings a torrent of raw emotions that bleed through every aspect of life, staining everything with the hues of grief.

Professionals should be stewards of hope, rather than adding to the anguish of an already painful health crisis. Providing genuine care and comfort to the sick and the dying is not only a source of personal satisfaction but also a profound expression of professional fulfilment.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 07,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1223]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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