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Empathy, Healthcare Experience Matters, PRC

Exploring the Burden of Empathetic Distress in Healthcare

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This week we are joined by a veteran guest of the Healthcare Experience Matters Podcast to discuss the different ways we can work to move past empathetic distress as healthcare workers.

We welcome back Kathleen Lynam, RN, MPA, for a very important and timely discussion on this pressing issue in the healthcare community that impacts society as a whole too. 

Kathleen is an Executive Coach and Senior Advisor with the Healthcare Experience Foundation (HXF). She brings decades of nursing leadership experience to the conversation. Today’s chat with Kathleen starts with reminder as to what empathy is in the first place. 

As discussed, empathy is a two-part skill starting with identifying our perspectives or emotions, and secondly it is about acknowledging or demonstrating some understanding with concern for others. According to Kathleen:

  • An empathic leader is a leader who demonstrates care, concern, and understanding for employees’ life circumstances.
  • Empathy helps bond colleagues together and forms the foundation of a resilient and inclusive workplace. Although it is often underestimated as a business skill, recent research suggests that empathy is essential to success in the future of work.
  • It is possible to cultivate and develop empathy.
  • There are three aspects of empathy: cognitive, affective, and behavioral.
  • Empathy is linked to many positive outcomes that teams can leverage to become more agile and innovative in times of crisis.
  • We also learn that empathy and compassion are not the same thing. Empathetic distress is the feeling we get when we lose ourselves in those who are suffering. It is when we become overwhelmed and distressed by the pain we see and experience in others. 

    People in the helping or healing profession are especially prone to merging their own identities with other people’s distress—but it can happen to anyone in any aspect of life. In the current era, people are constantly exposed to an abundance of suffering just by watching the news or scrolling through social media.

    “It’s something we’re exposed to every day, whether it’s on Facebook or in the news,” Kathleen said. 

    Watch Today’s Interview

    You can check out today’s full discussion with Kathleen: 

    About the HX Matters Podcast

    The five latest episodes of the Healthcare Experience Matters Podcast are available here: 

  • What Patient Experience Excellence Looks Like with Lara Burnside
  • What it Takes to Restore a Culture of Civility in Healthcare
  • How Leadership Behavior Helps Reduce Employee Turnover
  • Advancing the Patient Experience in Children’s Healthcare
  • Communication and Patient Empathy in Fast-Paced Settings
  • You can subscribe to our podcast for free on all major podcast platforms and for video of our interviews, you can always check out the Healthcare Experience Foundation (HXF) on YouTube. Catch up on all episodes of our podcast by subscribing and following us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music and more.

    More From Kathleen Lynam, RN, MPA

    If you are looking for other great discussions with Kathleen, you can check out the following podcasts she has joined us on:

  • Why Compassion is Needed Now
  • Getting Corporate Culture Right in Healthcare
  • Safer Transitions: Closing Discharge Gaps with CARES™ Connect
  • Empathy and Communication for Better Patient Experiences 
  • Practicing Mindfulness for Better Patient Experiences 
  • More COVID? More than I Can Take?
  • Kathleen Lynam answered her calling to care and went on to become a registered nurse at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, NJ, where she had an 18 year journey from staff nurse to Vice President of Acute and Ambulatory Services. It was here that she found her passion to coach and help healthcare teams realize the difference they make in a patient’s experience while in their care.

    Today, Kathleen Lynam brings extensive clinical, operational, and executive level experience in both small and large healthcare organizations across the country to her role as Executive Coach. But Kathleen is so much more than a coach. She is a national speaker, presenter and champion for patient care. Before stepping into the world of healthcare administration and, specifically, coaching, Kathleen spent over 40 years as a front-line nurse and Chief Nursing Officer at various medical centers and hospitals systems throughout New Jersey and New York.

    Empathy, Healthcare Experience Matters, PRC