Empathy is a powerful skill in healthcare. It is not only the ability to understand another person’s feelings, but it is also about understanding what they are going through to help them feel better. Recently Maggie Gerstner and Diana Voss of Southern Illinois Hospice provided an empathy training program for Kaskaskia College Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) students. Students were given special glasses, gloves, and a headset and instructed to complete five simple tasks: feed the dog, stack measuring cups, and sort a deck of cards by suit. The glasses, gloves, and headset distracted the students as they tried to complete the tasks. Some were successful. Others were not. The exercises were to help students gain a better understanding of a patient’s perspective.
CNA Program Coordinator Shelby Guthrie says the training is an excellent experience for the students. “If students know how to empathize, they will be better students, friends, employees, community members, and leaders. They will carry an understanding of the world’s complexities and others’ experiences, deepening all relationships in their life. They become better learners, better understand concepts, read others more accurately, and show better social behavior. Empathy is essential in healthcare. Expressing empathy is highly effective and powerful, which builds patient trust, calms anxiety, and improves health outcomes.”