Can we improve our empathic abilities?

Empathy, which is understood as the ability to put oneself in the place of another, to understand how they feel and adapt to it, is a skill that naturally has been associated not only with the practice of medicine, but to humans too.

In the case of assisted reproduction in particular, where we are faced with patients who are coping with the frustration of the difficulty in conceiving and therefore unable to fulfill the dream of parenthood, this ability takes on even more importance.

There are studies that show the impact the experience of infertility has on the quality of life of patients and how medical care focused on them, and not just on the results, can mitigate this impact. The psychological support offered proactively and systematically in our centres through a specialised psychological service plays a crucial role in caring for our patients. Nevertheless, this is not enough.

Everyone who comes into contact with the patient should be sensitized to the emotional state she finds herself in and act as the figure of an “invisible psychologist” who accompanies her throughout the entire process.

This awareness can be achieved by working individually on the empathic skills of all the people in the team who come into contact with the patient. While this may seem difficult, it has already been shown in doctors who regularly look after patients receiving reproductive care. Even if patient satisfaction after the first meeting with their doctors was already quite satisfactory, after empathic skill training, this satisfaction improved (García et al, Fertil Steril 2013).

This improvement occurred not only among physicians with less experience but also in those with an extensive professional background. Empathy, therefore, is an ability that is not only learnt and developed with practise, but is something which can be improved if specific aspects that we are not always aware of are trained and worked on and which affect not only our speech, but also our language and nonverbal communication.

By improving patient satisfaction, we will generate positive feelings that will have a beneficial impact on the way the process is experienced and, therefore, on the quality of life.

In the twenty-first century the treatments and care given to our patients should be approached in an all-embracing way, not just meeting the purely technical needs that each medical case requires, but also the human and emotional ones that every person needs, thus achieving all-round excellence.

Dr. Amelia Rodríguez
Medical Director, Clínica Eugin