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Rx: Compassionate Care

Physician burn-out, depression is common and affects care, survey says Reuters (1/17, Larkin) reports almost two-thirds of US physicians “feel burned out, depressed, or both – and those feelings affect how they relate to patients, according to a survey conducted by Medscape.” What is a potential antidote? Compassionate care.

What is compassionate care? It is a way of caring for yourself, colleagues and others that is kind and nurturing. Compassionate, holistic care begins with compassion for oneself, whether you are the patient or the care provider. Self-compassion — compassion directed inward — consists of three elements: kindness, a sense of common humanity and mindfulness. These components combine to create a self-compassionate frame of mind. Self-compassion is relevant when we are considering personal inadequacies, mistakes and perceived “failures,” as well as when we are confronting painful life situations that are outside our control. Self-kindness entails being warm and understanding when we suffer or feel inadequate, rather than beating ourselves up with criticism. How do you achieve compassionate care? Through meditation, simple breathing techniques, taking time for a cup of tea or sip of water. Creative writing, making and viewing art, listening to music, getting exercise — all are components of compassionate care.