Coronavirus reinforces the importance of empathy

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Narottam Sócrates Garcia Chumpitaz, a student of the fifth semester of Medicine of the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR). He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


When analyzing the hospital context in the last decades, the worldwide expansion of humanization actions in care is notorious, since the dignity of the human person often seems to be relegated to a secondary level due to the accelerated technical and scientific process, associated with the concept of efficiency1.

The importance of an even more human relationship in medicine during a pandemic is urgent. The fragility of patients in the face of the unknown, the presence of fear, the increase in insecurity, the awakening of anxiety and doubts with unanswered questions are triggers for empathy practices to be more frequent with patients.

At the same time, it must not be forgotten that doctors are human, even though they have sworn to save lives, which includes taking more risks, they also need welcoming, special care and respect to exercise the role they have chosen, committing themselves to health and everyone’s well-being.

Empathy is one of the most valuable skills sought by patients from their doctors, as it was evaluated by the self-perception of empathy in the residency program in the study by KUSZ, KAKARALA, CHAMPINE (2019), in which it is concluded that the development of empathy is a multifaceted and lifelong process, which must be cultivated during the training years through many different modalities. It is suggested that the patient’s history, coaching skills and self-reflection may be the most powerful ways to learn empathy.

According to PFATTHEICHER et al (2020), the idea that physical distance may be the result of genuine prosocial motivation – empathy for the most vulnerable to the virus was tested. They reviewed in three pre-registered studies that included samples from the USA (March 17), the United Kingdom and Germany (March 18), a total of N = 2,192 collected at the beginning of the outbreak, showing that empathy is really a basic motivation for physical detachment and induce empathy for people most vulnerable to the virus promotes motivation to adhere to physical detachment. Overall, the survey provides a better understanding of the basic motivation underlying the willingness to take an important step during the pandemic.

It is worth mentioning that social support and behavioral plans can reduce the negative psychological effects of isolation. Thus, having effective communication in times of crisis is necessary to help the perception of the general public, involving speed, honesty, credibility, empathy and the promotion of useful individual actions4.

Up to this moment, the envisaged way out is, in fact, each one is willing to cultivate and then practice empathy, be cautious, rational, civil and solidarity that everyone has to start applying in their daily lives. Think of the other equally with rights, duties, needs, fears, insecurities and uncertainties. In the midst of a delicate scenario. Whether you are a citizen or a health professional, you must clear your own ground, do not set aside personal immunization and be aware of the responsibility you exercise in society, as the proliferation of the new virus does not cancel out other diseases.

References

  • BACKES, Dirce Stein; LUNARDI, Valéria Lerch; LUNARDI FILHO, Wilson D.. A humanização hospitalar como expressão da ética. Rev. Latino-Am. Enfermagem, Ribeirão Preto, v.14, n.1, p.132-135, Fev.2006.
  • Pfattheicher, S., Nockur, L., Böhm, R., Sassenrath, C., & Petersen, M. (2020, March 23). The emotional path to action: Empathy promotes physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/y2cg5
  • KUSZ, Halina; KAKARALA, Radhika; CHAMPINE, Andrew. Lessons learned about empathy during our interview seasons. Medical Teacher, [s.l.], p. 1-3, 6 set. 2019. Informa UK Limited. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0142159x.2019.1658863.
  • Lunn, P. D., Belton, C. A., Lavin, C., McGowan, F. P., Timmons, S., & Robertson, D. A. (2020). Using Behavioral Science to help fight the Coronavirus. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration3(1). https://doi.org/10.30636/jbpa.31.147

About the author

Narottam Sócrates Garcia Chumpitaz is a student of the fifth semester of Medicine of the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR). He is a member of IFMSA Brazil and local coordinator who has worked in many voluntary activities involving human rights and vulnerable populations, as well as educational, welcoming programs for risk populations. As a constant Yoga practitioner, he believes in the therapeutic power of Yoga to strengthen mind-body connections, through finding an internal source of peace and reaching a better balanced life, as much as possible. This is the key-point to prevent some of the outcomes caused by COVID-19 scenery, such as excessive concernment, anxiety and fear, from generating disturbances in individual psychological health.

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