"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Nurse as Wounded Healer - Empathy in healthcare

We have a popular saying in the UK. If something happens in the United States, be sure it will soon come over to us in the UK! We often say this of snow storms and gales, (usually accurately), but this adage also applies to many other cultural ideas and issues. There today, here tomorrow.
Therefore I was absolutely fascinated to hear on our BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Monday that Huddersfield University has created a Compassion in Care doctoral scholarship research post. The first to take up this post is Barbara Schofield, a consultant nurse for older people in the Calderdale and Huddersfield National Health Service Trust.  She will study dignity and compassion in care and whether it can be taught to student nurses.
When I was researching and writing about the need for compassion and empathy in health care, I was impressed by the green shoots of a more holistic medicine visible in the US, that could be held up as an example for the UK, where acceptance of compassion and empathy training in the healing process seems rare, and mostly confined to pediatric and cancer care. Such a holistic approach had been advocated for example by Eric Cassell, who has written much about the need for healing as well as curing, and Larry Dossey, Norman Shealy and Dawson Church, to name a few, who recognize the need for a more holistic style of soul medicine to complement the traditional and more technologically driven current health care. But there is still a long way to go here, even in the United States.
Recently the UK's health Ombudsman has written a damning report, that the UK National Health Service was failing to respond to the needs of older people, and citing some disturbing instances of neglect of the elderly. Schofield clearly has plenty to get her teeth into, and I would recommend first that she reads Marion Conti- O'Hare's excellent book on The Nurse as Wounded Healer; from Trauma to Transcendence, and looks at her Q.U.E.S.T model for transcending trauma. But I also find O'Hare work interesting for her recognition, albeit in a fairly low key way in the book, that the work of the Wounded Healer in holistically healing our patients has a wider social significance in healing the social ills of our world. 
I think Barbara Schofield has a fascinating few years of research ahead of her.

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