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Virtual Grand Rounds: Challenges for Clinical Empathy

Presented by:

Jodi Halpern, M.D., Ph.D.

UCB/UCSF Joint Medical Program

School of Public Health

University of California, Berkeley

We begin with a challenging clinical case in which conscientious healthcare providers found it difficult to provide appropriate clinical empathy. Healthcare professionals must manage their personal emotional responses, ranging from anger to sympathy, to provide skillful empathic care for patients and families. There is accumulating evidence that specific aspects of clinical empathy, including non-verbal attunement, cognitive openness and genuine curiosity, and appropriate levels of concern when delivering bad news, improve medical effectiveness. Concern for patients can, alternatively, trigger self-related anxiety, which interferes with clinical empathy. Cultivating skill-based empathy enables caregivers to manage self-related anxiety. Professionals who engage in the specific practices that we describe learn to maintain empathy for diverse populations of patients over time, which also increases their own professional satisfaction. Five specific skills which we explore include mindful self-awareness and attending to both the verbal and non-verbal aspects of patient-caregiver communication.

Educational Objectives

As a result of participating in this activity, learners should be able to:

  1. Recognize the role of caregivers’ emotions in sustaining conflicts with patients and families.
  2. Learn to decenter from one’s own rigidities and anxiety during conflicts by cultivating genuine empathic curiosity about the other person’s perspective.
  3. Develop time efficient practices to transform conflict situations into opportunities for empathy.

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Accreditation Statement: Silver Hill Hospital is accredited by the Massachusetts Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Designation Statement: Silver Hill Hospital designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This program has been approved for 1.5 Continuing Education Credit Hours by the National Association of Social Workers, CT and meets the continuing education criteria for CT Social Work Licensure renewal. Approval also meets the continuing education criteria for CT LMFTs, LPCs, and licensed psychologists.

Silver Hill Hospital is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0728.

Disclosure: No one in control of content has indicated a relevant financial relationship with an ACCME defined commercial interest.