Compassion for self and others
’Health care is inherently compassionate, and yet the very sense of connection with patients that can make us effective caregivers can lead to feelings of stress and burnout—which then undermines our ability to be compassionate.’’
Leif Hass, M.D
At a workshop with health and care staff exploring compassion, when asked, ‘what are the conditions which provide a compassionate response for people receiving care? the following was suggested.
- Active listening and being heard and people not jumping in with solutions.
- Being understood and valued
- Kindness and listening to concerns
- Clear communication that is understandable – no jargon
- Staff who were caring, compassionate and non-judgmental
- Staff introduce themselves and see the patient as a person
- Having ME time
This piece on person centred care may be of interest https://www.cope-scotland.org/wellbeing-tips/entry/person-centred-care it includes a master class, put together as part of a Catalyst for Change programme, in partnership with Queen Margaret University, QNIS, and the voices of lived experience.
When asked what are the conditions which provide a compassionate response for people offering care? the following was suggested:
- Being listened to and understood
- Having trust in your colleagues and not feeling judged
- Feeling valued
- Having time to check in with yourself
- Knowing your own boundaries as well as the organizations. And keeping to those when it is difficult
- Colleagues who see their colleagues as people and not numbers / rivals / subordinates
- Having adequate breaks and time to feel connected to colleagues
- Variety of wellbeing sessions available for free
- Managers that ensure they feel ok and give permission for wellbeing time, making sure people take their breaks, including between demanding tasks
The similarities in conditions between those offering and receiving care are very similar. It suggests if we create the conditions for staff to maintain a sense of wellbeing, we shall also create the conditions for those receiving care to receive a more compassionate service.
What that group felt would help create these conditions included:
- Active learning sessions to learn about and practice tools & ideas to support staff wellbeing and compassion to the self.
- Active learning sessions for those who manage teams around the need to care for self, the team, and those receiving care.
- Peer discussion to explore the issues, and share ideas and learning, which may help make an impact.
- Coaching support to deliver wellbeing sessions to teams.
- A go to library of resources to support wellbeing and compassion.
There are many resources on the QNIS site which can support the elements that were suggested as being helpful. There are also resources on the COPE Scotland site e.g. https://www.cope-scotland.org/wellbeing-tips/entry/avoiding-burnout-and-compassion-fatigue and on the Capacitar site https://capacitar.org/
The challenge can be ‘Where do I find the time!’ There are things which can help us find more time e.g. 15sec30min. This site http://15s30m.co.uk/ takes you to ideas to discuss with your team around how spending 15sec here can save someone else 30min there. Think what you could do if there was an extra 30min in your day!
It is also important that we focus on the things which are within our control and not waste our energy focusing on those other things over which we have little or no control. There is a Liberating structure called 15% solutions https://www.liberatingstructures.com/7-15-solutions/ This is a 20min exercise which can help reveal actions no matter how small that people can take now.
In a world which is ever changing and where demands often exceed resources, it matters that we retain a sense of balance for ourselves and others. We may not be able to remove all the causes of stress which can lead to compassion fatigue and burn out, but we can build an environment where the impact of that stress can be reduced, and a sense of wellbeing promoted. Start small, it’s amazing what can develop from the smallest of actions. Remember, your wellbeing also matters.
So, NEVER LOSE AN OPPORTUNITY OF URGING A PRACTICAL BEGINNING, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.