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What happened to empathy and compassion?

I am confident that we can all relate to feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and anxiety.

There is no doubt that these emotions have been intensified by recent events. How do we as clinicians lull these emotions when they are present in our patients? As dental hygienists, we have an instrument for the removal of every “deposit” we encounter. However, what instrument do we select when the “deposits” are emotional?

Hint. You won’t find this instrument on your tray. The instrument you now need to use the most is in your chest. It’s your Heart. We must approach these uncertain times and emotions with empathy and compassion.

We are empathetic to the feelings or concerns of our patients. When dental concerns or pain hinder our patient’s quality of life, the last thing they want is to be made to feel worse about their situation. We need to apply empathy in our communications when addressing a patient’s concerns. Thus, ensuring them that we aren’t here to judge them, we are here to help. This keeps the patient’s dignity intact and eases their anxiety.

Compassion is defined as a concern for the suffering or misfortunes of others. We demonstrate compassion by using positive gestures including open body language, we take the time to actively listen, make eye contact, taking notes, or even repeating their statement to confirm that we understand.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

-Dalai Lama

We are in a unique position as dental providers to build lasting relationships with our patients. We care for them as if they were a member of our family. In fact, I see some patients more frequently than some of my family. My goal is to build a relationship based on knowledge, trust, empathy, and compassion.

By applying both empathy and compassion into our listening and communication we have adopted the psychosocial care method. These methods have been studied and it has been proven that empathy was positively associated with negotiated treatment plans, treatment adherence, increased patient satisfaction, and reduced dental anxiety.

Anyone can push a scaler. It takes someone who cares about the body that is attached to the mouth, to truly make a patient feel important. We are what puts the CARE in healthCARE.

Compassion is our business.

Empathy and Compassion are key to connecting and identifying with people.

Compassion is our humanity.

We should demonstrate compassion with family, friends, strangers, community, patients, and co-workers.

Last, of all, we need to extend compassion to ourselves! It is not an easy time for any dental professional. The physical and emotional drain that we all feel at the end of the day is taxing. BE KIND!


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